I grew up in Mr Rogers Neighborhood. I remember watching him at home, at school, at Grandma’s house. Any time he was on, I was attentive. Last year, I went and saw the documentary about the man in the ‘hood, and I left there bawling. If what you want is a look into the man himself, then that doc is prolly what you’re looking for. If you want to look at the impact he has, then this movie is what you want.
Matthew Rhys is an investigative journalist who is given an assignment that is unusual for him: write a profile on Fred Rogers. What he finds is that Mr Rogers isn’t your typical subject. He’s far more interested in talking about his interviewer than himself, in being helpful than self promoting. What starts out as a quick meeting for a short interview turns into a life impacting friendship. In an inspired move, the story is framed as an episode of Mr Rogers, which leads to some clever surprises in storytelling.
Again, not a standard biopic. I’d argue not even a biopic in the slightest. You don’t learn anything new about Mr Rogers that you didn’t already know (esp if you saw last year’s doc). What you get instead is something more powerful. You see an illustration of the impact he had. Sure, it’s prolly exaggerated for dramatic effect but you essentially watch someone change their life for the better because they knew this great man. That illustration is much more powerful than mere words in a biopic could convey.
I seem to be burying the lede a little bit here. Fred Rogers is played by another American treasure: Tom Hanks. Hanks possesses the same gentle soul that drove Mr Rogers, and he plays him beautifully with the same patience and tenderness. You never look at him and see Fred, but you feel his presence throughout the film. It’s so moving.
This film isn’t quite what I expected, but it’s lovely nonetheless. If nothing else, I was happy to spend two hours in the neighborhood, even if it wasn’t in the way I thought.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n