A troubled investigative journalist is assigned to write a profile on Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. In 1998, Lloyd Vogel (Lloyd Vogel) is assigned by his editor at “Esquire” magazine to write a profile on children’s television host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) for an upcoming piece about heroes. Lloyd has been having struggles in his personal life, as he deals with both his newborn son with wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) and the sudden efforts by his estranged father Jerry (Chris Cooper) to reconnect. Through his series of interviews with Mr. Rogers, Lloyd begins to learn that we could all use a little kindness.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a film directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) based on the 1998 “Esquire” magazine article “Can You Say … Hero?” by Tom Junod. The film is less a biopic about Mr. Rogers and more about how a series of interviews with the children’s television host affected the life of a jaded investigative journalist, already annoyed with being assigned to write a puff piece. However, when Lloyd Vogel meets Fred Rogers, he can’t believe that this unbelievably kind and empathetic man is the real deal, which causes Lloyd to dig much deeper into the life and career of the popular children’s entertainer.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood arrives a little over a year after the highly acclaimed Mr. Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. While it can be easy to assume that A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a biopic about Fred Rogers, the central protagonist in the film is actually Lloyd Vogel, a fictionized version of real journalist Tom Junod. Fred Rogers is merely a supporting character in the film, who ends up helping Lloyd with the personal issues he has with his estranged father, which in turn is affecting his marriage and infant child.
Marielle Heller heavily plays up the nostalgia factor, with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood featuring framing scenes done in the style of an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, complete with Tom Hanks as Rogers singing the signature theme songs and there being a number of transitions utilizing miniatures. In playing Fred Rogers, Tom Hanks wisely doesn’t go for a full-on imitation, though he does get many of the children’s host’s mannerisms correct.
Overall, I will have to say that A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a relatively heartwarming feel-good movie that will leave you feeling nostalgic for the man known as Mr. Rogers.