A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)



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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a film adaptation of an article about Fred Rogers that first appeared in Esquire magazine in 1998. Tom Hanks won the best supporting Oscar for his portrayal of Mr. Rogers. The Academy loves to reward actors who play real people. Matthew Rhys plays Lloyd Vogel, the on-screen version of writer Tom Junod.


In 2018 a documentary about Fred Rogers was released that included interviews with his wife and children. Won't You Be My Neighbor set records for a documentary. It was snubbed by the Oscar selection committee, though it still was not as good as Free Solo. I recommend reading the Esquire article, then seeing A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, reading the follow-up article by Tom Junod in The Atlantic and finally watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor.


A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the story of one man finding himself with the assistance of Fred Rogers. It reveals some aspects of Mr. Roger’s life away from his show. Tom Hanks turns in the performance you would expect and disappears into the role. The movie touches on Fred’s relationship with his own children in a few fleeting lines of dialog. It mostly paints Mr. Rogers as the walking saint we all believe him to be from our relationship to his television program.


I had more issues with this movie because I saw the documentary first. My impression of Fred Rogers was reshaped by that documentary that touched on the fact that he was hard to have as a father. He was a truly remarkable and kind human. Seeing someone else’s relationship with Fred Rogers was less interesting than rediscovering my own relationship with him.


If I had consumed the films and articles in the order above, I think this movie would have been more impactful. I did find myself thinking about the documentary and my reaction to it during this movie. If this is the movie that gets you to reflect on how you treat others and view the world around you, then it will have accomplished its mission. If you are short on time, skip this and watch Won’t You Be My Neighbor with a box of tissues nearby.

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©2019 by Sean Whitehurst