Dir; Marielle Heller. Starring; Matthew Rhys, Tom Hanks, Chris Cooper. Color. PG. 109 minutes.
“There is no normal life that is free from pain.” -Mr. Rodgers.
I am a student of history. Unfortunately when you go back in time the dirt often comes out on the most important people who lived. George Washington loved him some slaves. Both Gandhi and MLK loved them their affairs. Winston Churchill was a hard core extreme alcoholic. Bill Cosby and O.J. Simpson were, well we all know what they were. Then you come to Fred Rodgers, perhaps the most beloved children’s television show host of the 20th century. The skeleton in his closet is shocking. He doesn’t have one!
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” takes the absolute perfect approach at dramatizing an American icon like Fred Rodgers. Matthew Rhys plays Lloyd Vogel, a hardworking reporter in New York for Esquire magazine who is known for his ability to tear peoples lives apart through an article. His father Jerry (an exceptional Chris Cooper) is a hard core drunk, and not in the proverbial good way if you will. Lloyd has become a chronic cynic, even attacking his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) verbally during an event because he is so overwhelmed with life. Of course he doesn’t mean what he’s saying.
Then all of the sudden the reporter is forced to do a short fluff piece on Mr. Rodgers, and it turns out to be life changing. Lloyd does not want to do it because a children’s TV show host bores him. He wants that controversial, angry type of stuff. Lloyd lackadaisically calls Mr. Rodgers’ team not caring and shortly after receives a call from the man himself. Thus begins a beautiful moment of friendship in life between the two.
As he digs further Lloyd meets Mr. Rogers’ wife Joanne (Maryann Plunkett) who loves her husband but admits that sometimes it is hard being married to what people view as a saint. Long time character actor Enrico Colantoni plays Mr. Rodgers’ agent/handler/manager, I’m not sure exactly what the title is. Right hand man. He understands what Mr. Rodgers represents to people and keeps the metaphorical train on the tracks.
On the sidelines Mr. Rodgers creates a strong relationship with Lloyd as he is going through a tough time with his father, a man that he despises for good reason, who is dying. After months what started as a fluff piece has morphed into one of the most highly read articles in the magazines history.
Filmmaking wise, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is incredibly ‘Meta’ with its storytelling techniques. As Lloyd’s personal tale unfolds several times a replication of the old Mr. Rodgers puppet set are utilized to go into real life. You also see Mr. Rodgers actually get in there with the puppets combined with surreal fantasies while Lloyd is trying to keep his mind straight in terms of ‘what the hell am I watching happening right now’ type of stuff. Cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes does a great job of combining magic with reality. I was going to mention Tom Hanks plays Mr. Rogers earlier, but what am I supposed to say other than “DUH”!
Every person deserves a Mr. Rodgers in their life. And I’m not talking therapist or boss or companion. Someone who is so kind that it is impossible to understand why that person is so kind. I have one, while obviously completely different from Mr. Rodgers, and I call her Mama Seigel. She is the mother of my lifelong best friend, a term I hate because I have multiple best friends. While there are several life topics we disagree on she is the most kind hearted person you could ever meet. In my 25 plus years of knowing her I cannot think of one instance when I walked into a room and it did not feel like I was getting hit in the face with warmth and joy. There are numerous people I love just as much as well as far more for various reasons of course. But as a broken human being and reporter myself, I cannot find an angle of bad which drives me insane and is why my life has been enriched in so many ways by knowing her.
I bring that story up because that is what “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” hits on the head perfectly. Us stubborn, critical S.O.B.’s are constantly looking for flaws. When you meet a person that is just kind from top to bottom it floors you because you cannot believe that exists. I am lucky to have grown up in a world in which I could visit Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood once a week.
Suck Factor: 1out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!