“What happened to you, Lloyd?” asks Fred Rogers, aka “Mr. Rogers” (Tom Hanks). Lloyd (Matthew Rhys) has a battered, bloody nose. “I got into a fight,” he says. Mr. Rogers asks, “Who did you get into a fight with?” “Jerry,” Lloyd says, “my father.” That’s the setup for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” in which Mr. Rogers helps heal magazine journalist Lloyd Vogel’s wounded soul.
How does Mr. Rogers heal Lloyd Vogel? Are Lloyd and his father reconciled? Will you love this gentle “message film” about one man’s ability to help another? I do.
As Fred Rogers, Tom Hanks is amazingly good. Many of us, like me, have a caricature-image of “Mr. Rogers.” He’s kid-friendly, somewhat tedious, a one-dimensional character, created on public television by Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers for 33 years (1968-2001). Troubled journalist, Lloyd Vogel — excellently played by Matthew Rhys — makes the same assumption. “There’s you — Fred,” he says. “and the character, ‘Mr. Rogers,’ the part you play.” Hanks’ performance convinces Lloyd — and us — that Fred/Mr. Rogers is much more interesting than that. Maryann Plunkett, Rogers’ wife Joanne, agrees: “Rodg,” she says, “is not a perfect person. He gets angry.” He’s quirky. “I don’t eat meat — I just can’t imagine eating something that had a mother.” Hanks’ great achievement, critic Andrew Young writes, “is to make Mr. Rogers a real person.” See “A Beautiful Day” and watch Hanks do that.
Others in the cast include Chris Cooper as Jerry Vogel, Lloyd’s estranged father, and Susan Kelechi Watson as attorney Andrea Vogel, Lloyd’s sometimes impatient wife. Christine Lahti is Ellen, editor at “Esquire” magazine. Wendy Makkeng and Tammy Blanchard are Dorothy and Lorraine, in Lloyd’s extended family. Daniel Krell plays “Mr. McFeely,” the television-show letter carrier.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” directed by Marielle Heller, script by Michah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, is based on the real-life friendship of Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod — “Lloyd Vogel” in the film. Action takes place in the late 1990s. Not a biopic about Fred Rogers — in fact, he’s a supporting role — “A Beautiful Day” is about Lloyd Vogel, with whom we can identify and from whom, by way of Hanks’ Mr. Rogers, we can learn about ourselves. “A Beautiful Day” is, finally, a movie that makes you think about yourself. That’s its takeaway.
Rated PG for strong thematic material, a brief fight and mild language, “ABDITN” runs 108 minutes. It’ll be one of my favorites.
Message movie, with takeaway,
And Tom Hanks who’s Oscar-good;
See him in “A Beautiful Day
(As he sings) in the Neighborhood.”