A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - A-
Rated PG-13, 109 minutes
"A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" is what you expect it to be: a touching, heart-warming tribute to legendary children's entertainer and TV icon Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers. While it isn't a straight biography, it's an insightful, well-acted look into Rogers' impact.
A cynical, award-winning journalist, Lloyd Vogel (Emmy-winner Matthew Rhys of "The Americans"), begrudgingly accepts an assignment to write an Esquire profile of the beloved television icon Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). Vogel, who is experiencing challenges a new father with wife Amanda ("This is Us's Susan Kelechi Watson) and estranged father (Oscar-winner Chris Cooper), his perspective on life is transformed after his encounter with Rogers.
Much like the real man, the poignant "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" will win you over, mainly due to the excellent turn from Oscar-winning veteran Hanks, who nails Rogers' warmth and simplicity. Hanks, who has taken on figures such as Captain Phillips, Ben Bradlee and Walt Disney, seems up for the challenge of playing such a revered figure and comes away again with another memorable turn that should see some accolades this awards season.
"Beautiful Day" is directed by Marielle Heller ("Can You Ever Forgive Me?") and is co-written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, and know the film is not a straight biography of Rogers, but is based on the acclaimed Esquire magazine article by Tom Junod, "Can You Say..Hero?" and Junod's friendship with Rogers in writing the piece. Rhys, Kelechi Watson and especially Cooper are all solid here, and though Hanks (understandably) receives top billing here, it's a borderline supporting part as he's not in every scene.
Even with that, Rogers' presence is still felt throughout, and it's an insightful look at how Rogers' kindness and generosity helped shaped a jaded perspective. Some parts of "Beautiful Day's" middle act is a little slow, and Heller could've tightened some scenes, but she adds some nice touches with miniatures of urban areas to give the feel of Rogers' TV show mixing with real life. Nate Heller's jazz-heavy, piano score also adds nicely to film, providing a good alternate context to Rogers' optimism.
2018's acclaimed documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor" is a more definitive biography of Rogers, and "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" provides a touching extension to give credence to Mr. Rogers' impact. "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" is a superbly acted, lovely tribute to a TV icon, and a must-see for Hanks' excellent turn.