A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is Just What We Need

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Are you, like millions of Americans, a little exhausted by the seemingly never-ending slew of bad news? If not, perhaps you could merely use an uplifting boost to be the cherry on top of your week? Well, regardless of any circumstances, do yourself a favor and see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring the eternally lovable Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. This film, directed by Marielle Heller, comes at a perfect time when we need to cleanse our palates of any negative realities the world is facing and take a moment to remember what’s good in our own lives. 

Photo from “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

The film is inspired by the real-life friendship that developed between Mr. Rogers and a writer for Esquire magazine during the late 90s. The writer, named Tom Junod (changed to Lloyd Vogel in the film), is assigned to write a magazine profile about Mr. Rogers for an Esquire spread about heroes. He’s a regular guy plagued by his own personal problems, who typically writes about people in an unsavory light, and is reluctant to profile someone like Rogers. He unexpectedly finds himself transformed by Rogers’ bona fide kindness during the interviewing process. What happens to him is the moment we all hope for as adults, that moment where someone helps us unpack the stressful weight of the world and look at the bigger picture with optimism. Basically, we can’t always face it all alone.

Tom Hanks exemplifies that kindness perfectly, for anyone crazy enough to think he wouldn’t. He isn’t trying too hard, and it’s almost humorous, as you can tell he’s really enjoying the impersonation. The film even opens like a real episode of Mr. Rogers’ show, zooming in on a mini town, equipped with a trolley and all the typical accouterments. Hanks greets us, switches out his blazer for an iconic Rogers’ zip-up cardigan, and trades his daytime loafers for simple sneakers. He then introduces us to some of his friends, including Vogel, saying “someone has hurt my friend Lloyd, and not just on his face. He’s having a hard time forgiving the person who hurt him.” Then we dive into how their relationship develops in the present time, 1998, and where that leads.

If you saw last year’s heartwarming documentary directed by Morgan Neville, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, you’re probably already familiar with who Rogers was: an ordained minister who loved swimming, playing piano, and helping children. Neville’s documentary showed that Fred Rogers’ TV persona wasn’t at all an act, but that along with “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” emphasizes that he was a human being, not necessarily a saint. No matter what, his image isn’t tarnished, and that feels even more amazing to know he was actually such a good person. It’s a film that meshes that with the real-life impact he made on everyday people.

This movie doesn’t veer too far into ooey-gooey sentimentality, it goes to a pretty raw place of real, difficult emotions that are hard for people to address. Vogel has to surrender to his emotions, face them head-on, and learn about forgiveness through Mr. Rogers’ seemingly off-hand remarks. When watching it, you as a viewer realize that the things Rogers’ says are relevant to your real emotional toolkit. He was, forgive the cliché, larger than life, but not an unrealistic fantasy. Through this film, you learn that, despite the world sometimes being an ugly place, there is always hope and you have to make the effort.

It is isn’t Oscar bait—it’s something that you didn’t know you desperately needed. Bring the tissues!

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