Goodness overwhelms cynicism

Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (IMDB/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the story of a friendship between American children’s television icon Fred Rogers and the magazine journalist who profiled him. Source: ACOFB.

By Peter Sheehan, ACOFB

This drama was inspired by an article written by Tom Junod and published in Esquire magazine in 1998.

Rogers was the creator and host of a much-loved children’s program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Junod inspired the fictional character Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys, who is assigned by the Esquire magazine editor (Christine Lahti) to do a story on Rogers (Tom Hanks). He approaches Rogers with cynicism, not believing Rogers could be as thoroughly kind and decent as his onscreen persona.

The exposure of Vogel to Rogers deeply affects both men.

Hanks gives an outstanding portrayal of Rogers, winning people over by allowing them simply to “be themselves”, while Rhys is impressive as the cynical journalist.

The film is structured like an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It begins with Rogers introducing viewers calmly to a story about a journalist by the name of Vogel. Rogers’ goodness is projected through a series of anecdotes. He loves animals, relates warmly and positively to everyone he meets, wakes daily at 5am to pray and swim, and enjoys taking photographs of everyone he meets to show his wife, Joanne (Maryann Plunkett).

In his interactions with Rogers, Vogel makes a personal journey from deep cynicism to awareness that Rogers is a person who emanates genuine goodness.

The film is not a sentimental journey for the viewer. Goodness reveals its essence through the interactions of the two men with each other, and Rogers becomes a catalyst for Vogel to re-asses his conflicted relationship with his father.

This is a highly unusual film that works to undermine cynical perceptions of goodness. The movie avoids sentimentality and convinces through the force engendered by quality acting and sensitive direction. It is about a man dedicated to entertaining children, but the film’s real strength lies in the way it reaches out in a very positive way to communicate inspiring ideals for grown-ups.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Starring: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper, Susan Kelecki Watson, Maryann Plunkett, and Christine Lahti. Directed by Marielle Heller. Rated PG (Mild themes, violence and coarse language). 109 min.

FULL REVIEW

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (ACOFB)

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