Saturday, November 23, 2019

Movie with Abe: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Directed by Marielle Heller
Released November 22, 2019

There are certain public figures who present a very wholesome image based on the work they do. It may be that their private lives are secretive or unknown, and it’s also possible that there isn’t much distinction between the character portrayed and the person behind the performance. Some may doubt the veracity of a lifestyle or mindset, presuming that there is something hidden behind the mask worn which is darker or more layered, suggesting an inauthenticity or manipulation. When further research is done, the results are likely to surprise the one doing the digging.

Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work for Esquire Magazine has earned him a reputation as an excellent but extremely harsh writer. After the birth of his baby son and an unpleasant run-in with his absent father (Chris Cooper), Lloyd is assigned to write a profile of children’s television host Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks). Ready to be unimpressed with his subject, Lloyd travels to Pittsburgh to meet the man in person. When he receives nothing but kindness and almost impossible understanding, Lloyd continues to wonder whether Mr. Rogers is indeed real or if the man he’s pretending to be on television doesn’t actually exist.

Mr. Rogers was featured in a terrific and shockingly Oscar-snubbed documentary last year, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” This film isn’t merely a repeat of the same material with actors playing the parts, but instead a more focused portrait that sets itself up as an episode of Mr. Rogers’ show in which Lloyd is featured as a friend in trouble whose story contains valuable life lessons for the viewer. It does feel like an immersive dive into the mindset of Mr. Rogers, who annoys Lloyd constantly by deflecting from his questions with insightful and overwhelmingly positive observations that demonstrate that there’s always a silver lining to be gleaned from any obstacle.

Rhys, a recent Emmy winner for “The Americans,” fills his role adequately but unmemorably, leaving space for Hanks to take the spotlight. While it’s still possible to recognize Hanks in the red sweater, the casting is appropriate given that Hanks is also perceived as a truly nice guy in an industry scarcely populated by them. His mimicry of Mr. Rogers’ speaking style and mannerisms is impressive, and it’s a strong performance ably supported by turns from Cooper and Susan Kelechi Watson as Lloyd’s less gruff wife Andrea. This perfectly standard film from director Marielle Heller may not be the most fascinating chapter of Mr. Rogers’ life, but it is an effective snippet that serves as a fitting and heartwarming lesson he would surely teach.


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