A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Movie Review - An Influencer, immortalised!

Updated: Jan 16, 2020, 18:57 IST | Johnson Thomas | Los Angeles

What Marielle Heller attempts to do in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is convey a sense of the magnitude of influence that Mr. Rogers and his show had on the young minds of that period.

A still from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Image courtesy: Youtube
A still from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Image courtesy: Youtube

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
U/A: Biography, Drama
Director: Marielle Heller
Cast: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper, Susan Kelechi Watson, Enrico Colantoni, Maryann Plunkett
Rating: Rating

We in India may not have had first-hand experience of Mr Rogers and his life-transforming, legendary TV show targeted at kids but this film helmed by Marielle Heller lets us experience that incredible power.

Tom Junod's exemplary Esquire profile of Mr Rogers, "Can You Say ... Hero?" is the same profile that gives "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" its premise - but Lloyd Vogel (Mathew Rhys) becomes the award-winning, non-conformist, cynical journalist (whom most celebrities refuse to be interviewed by) and Mr Rogers (played by the impeccably brilliant Tom Hanks) inevitably becomes the subject.

The narrative opens much like a Mr Rogers episode — replete with piano theme music, miniature sets and Mr Rogers arriving home, singing, changing his sweater and shoes… And then cuts to Lloyd while he unwittingly embarks on that cathartic journey of self-discovery.

Lloyd's wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) asks him not to "ruin her childhood" by writing his usual arsenic tipped article. But once he meets Fred Rogers its open season all the way. Rogers' unstinting kindness and never-ending questioning get Lloyd talking about himself, his role as a father, his strained relationship with his father Jerry (Chris Cooper) and inadvertently uncloaks how it continues to affect him after all these years.

Check out the A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood trailer here:

This is not an easy film to script, leave alone transform into cinema - so, scriptwriters Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue's inescapable contributions towards making this experience profound, cathartic and validating in turn, must be highly appreciated.

Mr Rogers is conceived as a simple, uncomplicated compassionate persona - much like his onscreen model evoked then, and even through all of Lloyd's attempts to break that mould, he holds steadfast and true. Of course, Rogers comes across as fictitious and unreal but Heller is not interested in delving deeply into that aspect. What Heller attempts to do here is convey a sense of the magnitude of influence that Mr Rogers and his show had on the young minds of that period. Cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes aids that ambition with TV-like set-ups and frequent shifts into the real world through varying textures and colours. It's a beautiful set up that speaks volumes about the positive ramifications of mass media and gives us hope that shows like this, that highlight positive human qualities, can make a big difference in this ever-changing and turbulent world.

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