Cast: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper
Director: Marielle Heller
Is there really anything Tom Hanks can do wrong at this point? A man who has dedicated his life to kindness playing a man who dedicated his life to spreading kindness to children, it seems like the perfect match. After last year’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Heller has another hit on her hands that teaches the idea of love, pain, and ability to open up and be honest with ourselves. Powered by a clear direction and a supporting role from Hanks that’s one of the best of his career, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is an emotional roller-coaster that brilliantly depicts the struggles of life and how just a little bit of generosity and an open heart can go a long way.
The film follows Lloyd Vogel (Rhys), a writer for Esquire magazine who is tasked with doing a piece on Fred Rogers (Hanks), a famous children’s programming television host. What starts off as a traditional fluff piece quickly becomes a deep look into both their lives and how the two of them came to be. Mainly focused on their pain and how they cope with it, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood spends 109 minutes combing over the two and learning how Fred’s open-mindedness can influence and bring peace to even the most tortured souls. When you’re playing one of the most beloved celebrities of all time, there’s an enormous amount of pressure to make sure that his legacy is done justice. Hanks playing Rogers may be the best casting choice of the year as his years of experience and the legacy that comes with him make him nearly perfect in the role. He has all of Fred’s mannerisms and the attitude to go with it, making it one of the most caring, considerate performances of the year. Outside of Hanks, I truly appreciated Heller’s direction with this movie and the decision to make Rogers a supporting character to shift the focus more on a family of normal, struggling people. This ends up helping drive Fred’s point home as you can see how they can be directly applied to our lives and the lives of Heller’s characters and prevents the movie from being a Mr. Rogers biopic. The script is strong enough to support itself, but you can tell the specific decisions Heller made to enhance the movie. Whether this is fourth-wall breaking or the use of color for symbolism, Heller knows how to make a great movie regardless of what the subject matter is. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Hanks to such a prominent role and even though he’s great in every movie he’s in, he really flourishes here and is given the opportunity to show reverence and respect to a great man in local children’s programming. While Hanks may be the only one getting any sort of recognition from this movie, that does not undo the hard work and dedication Heller and company have put into making A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood one of the most emotional and sensitive movies of the year.
Overall, when you review a movie like A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, you have to look at its intention and compare it to the end result. When it comes to this movie, Heller’s goal was to show a level of goodness and generosity that we are sorely missing in our lives and she does so better than most would be able to in her position. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a masterful movie by Heller and Hanks embodies every word that Rogers believed in by showing us the value of being loved and loving others for who they are.
Overall Score: 9.5/10