A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is a film which flourishes but not for the reasons people are expecting. Most look at the poster and assume Tom Hanks is the driving force behind Director Marielle Heller’s latest project. In reality, Hanks’s portrayal of the iconic children’s television host has little to do with the narrative of the film. Heller uses Fred Rodgers as more of a plot device in a film that centers around journalist Tom Junod and a piece he wrote about Fred Rogers. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is a story of forgiveness and redemption told through the lens of his iconic television program. Yes, King Friday and Daniel Tiger play a role in the film. Heller’s ability to seamlessly meld these two very different worlds is a testament to her genius. Hanks and Rhys are solid in their respective roles, but it’s Heller’s deft touch, which makes this film pop.
At first, the concept of using things like ” The Land of Make Believe” to tell a story with this type of emotional baggage made little sense. Junod’s storyline involves hatred, guilt, and the profound sadness a son feels over the death of their mother. How can this even make sense in the framework of a children’s television show but remember ‘Mr. Rogers Neighboorhood’ was no ordinary show. Fred Rogers dealt with many life moments ranging from death to divorce during his time at WQED. They refer to that during his “interview” with Junod.
Hanks certainly embodies Fred Rogers and does so in a stellar manner. He will undoubtedly be at least discussed during the award season as a supporting actor candidate. As much as I expected to be blown away, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is more of a pleasant experience for all, and that’s okay. This film is undoubtedly a lovely tribute to all that Mr. Rogers stood for.