Saturday, March 14, 2020

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: In These Troubling Times, Is There a Better Movie for Families?

Movie Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)
Version: Library Blu-Ray

If you are tempted to watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood as a pleasant romp down your distant childhood memories, set that aside. Yes, there are many wonderful elements to that in this film. But A Beautiful Day is much more than that. It is an intricate and complex story wrapped around the very deep and dark background of Esquire magazine investigative reporter Lloyd Vogel, who facing challenging assessment at work receives a difficult assignment: a simple and seemingly unchallenging short interview with children's hero Mr Rogers. Vogel sees this as beneath his talents and skill level, but when his boss insists he take the assignment and make the most of it, Vogel relents. And so begins a voyage of personal discovery that will change his life.

This is a dual story. It is both about Vogel's relationship with his father and Rogers's relationship with his audience, which includes, surprisingly, not just children but many adults -- really anyone who hurts. And as Vogel tries to interview Rogers for his short hero biography, Rogers interviews Vogel to discover why he has a disagreement with his father. Vogel realizes his assignment really deserves much more space than the magazine is giving it, although his editor keeps telling him to finish it up, it's just a simple assignment. But pursue the full story Vogel does, and although he resists Rogers's probing, Rogers digs deeper, too.p

Tom Hanks plays Fred Rogers with perfection. He is wise and caring while aware of his own foibles. Matthew Rhys plays Lloyd Vogel effortlessly. He is edgy and angry while allowing a cheeky vulnerability. Susan Kelechi plays Vogel's insufferable but supportive wife Andrea. Maryann Plunkett plays Rogers's endearing and indulging wife Joanne. Enrico Calantoni plays Bill, the protective production company chief always at Rogers's side. Together, they breathe life into this amazing true story.

Your Mr Rogers whimsy will be well fed with the music, the set decoration, the puppets, references to show segments. Perhaps you will relate to the love of the man in scenes with groups of strangers joining in greeting him with his theme song, one in particular as Rogers and Vogel take a New York City subway car and children and adults alike sing "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood". He will inform you of his ideas on treating fear and anger and anxiety, and how he wasn't a perfect man by any means, but how he dealt with it. And you will fall in love with that same Mr Rogers all over again.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a wonderful film. Yes, it's dark and brooding in places, as was Lloyd Vogel. But it's also deeply caring and nurturing, as was Fred Rogers. In these troubling times, is there any better movie for families to gather around? I doubt it. See it together.

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