Mr. Rogers is the interviewee, and his moderator is the main attraction. How sweet.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” was a sympathetic and dazzling documentary about Fred Rogers, probably the nicest, most considerate man on TV. He never judged people based on their appearance, and he always believed the world can be a beautiful place. I owe it to that film for reminding me of my childhood a bit, and for getting me back in the world of docs.
Now, Tom Hanks portrays him in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” but the movie isn’t really about him. It’s about the man who interviewed him for Vogue-Todd Junod, who is renamed here Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys). He’s appointed to interview Fred Rogers, and they’re basically like Roger Rabbit and Eddie Valiant, because Lloyd is annoyed at Fred’s whimsical characteristics. He has puppet animals, and loves people of his kind.
“His kind?,” you ask. People who have lost their way. In Lloyd’s story, his father (Chris Cooper) has left him and his sister (Tammy Blanchard), just as their mother passed away. Ever since, he’s lost his way. And on the side, his wife (Susan Kelechi Watson) has grown restless with how he’s more focused on his work and sadness than on his family.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” isn’t a fully examine biopic at the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” level, because, again, it isn’t about him. It’s about the person who has to interview him. Hanks and Rhys are both lovable in their own respective ways. One channels the TV pal’s mannerisms, while the other is struggling to know the meaning of “forgiveness,” which pertains to his father.
It’s often cynical, at times, when we struggle to examine the writer’s real emotions, and how his wife has to have the formula work vs family problems. But emotions do take their time, and we really support him, and it does serve a minor message.
I also admire the miniature cars and sets used to represent the buildings and change of scene, in order to reminisce with the series. It sounds like a minor note, sure, but seeing these props makes me feel good inside.
But really, it’s the two main characters who earn our tears and sympathy. Director Marielle Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me”) and writers Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster all do their best to live up to the original standards, as well as introduce to a new character in Mr. Rogers’ life.
The movie is rated PG, but it’s more for older kids, teens, and adults than it is for small children. It has more serious themes, and come to think of it, so did the show.
As I said with “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” get on your local trolly.