What A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD Gets Right About Fred Rogers
*Editor’s Note: In honor of The 28th Annual Movieguide® Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry, we’re highlighting nominees for the upcoming ceremony. The Gala will be broadcast at a later date on the Hallmark Channel.
Below is a portion of the review from A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, which is nominated for the BEST MOVIE FOR MATURE AUDIENCES, a GRACE PRIZE® MOVIES and an EPIPHANY PRIZE® FOR INSPIRING MOVIES
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is a wonderful movie starring Tom Hanks as the famous children’s television host, Fred Rogers, whose Christian wisdom helps a troubled reporter become a better man and reconcile with his estranged father. A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is a delightful, winsome, powerful, heartrending movie that exalts forgiveness, kindness, grace, and love.
The movie begins with Fred Rogers opening one of his shows of MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD in typical fashion, with Rogers entering a house, taking off his suit coat and putting on a red sweater and blue tennis shoes while he sings the show’s theme song. Rogers sits down next to a large piece of cardboard with little cardboard cutout doors on it. He starts opening the doors to reveal photos of the cast of his program. Finally, he unveils a photo of his friend, Lloyd Vogel, who’s frowning at the camera and has some cuts on his face. Lloyd is not having a very good day, Rogers notes, and has gotten into a fight.
Cut to a model of New York City that looks like it’s part of the model set on the show. The year is 1998. Lloyd Vogel is at home with his wife and infant son. Lloyd is dreading going to his sister, Lorraine’s wedding, her third, because his sister has invited their estranged father, Jerry, and his wife. Their father abandoned them when they were young, when their mother contracted a terminal illness. Lloyd has never forgiven his father. Sure enough, on the day of the wedding, Lloyd gets into a fight with his father. A couple punches are thrown, and Lloyd winds up with cuts to his face.
Lloyd is a reporter who works for Esquire, a large national magazine. He’s known for his hard-hitting, cynical interviews and reports where he exposes some kind of wrongdoing by other people. After the fight with his father, however, Lloyd is given the assignment of interviewing Fred Rogers for a series of short stories on heroes. The stories are designed to be puff pieces, and Lloyd chafes at having to write a puff piece of Mister Roger. In Lloyd’s cynical worldview, no one can be as good, gentle and kind as Fred Rogers seems to be on TV.
Lloyd travels to the PBS studios in Pittsburgh where Fred tapes his children programs. He watches Fred tape a program and tries to interview Fred on the fly, but Fred’s answers are a little vague and somewhat off-putting because they seem to project the same on-air persona that can be seen on the program. Also, Fred keeps turning things around and starts interviewing Lloyd. After all, who is this strange man who still has cuts on his face from his recent altercation with his father?
Lloyd begs for more time with Fred, and Fred gives it to him. The interviews are more in depth, but Lloyd still gets frustrated whenever Fred turns the interviews around to focus on Lloyd’s life, including the touchy subject of Lloyd’s relationship with his father. Meanwhile, Lloyd’s father keeps trying to reach out to his son. Also, Lloyd’s own wife begs her husband not to ruin part of her childhood by writing a mean story about Mister Rogers.
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is funny and winsome as Lloyd struggles to understand and empathize with the intensity of Fred Rogers’ cheery childlike optimism, gentle manner and positive values. The movie ups the stakes of what’s happening because Lloyd’s poor relationship with his father has resulted in him becoming estranged from his wife and newborn child. Only by Lloyd embracing Fred’s biblical philosophy of life can Lloyd find any peace and healing.
Tom Hanks is brilliant as Fred Rogers, the iconic TV personality who transforms one man’s life. So is Matthew Rhys as the hard-bitten, cynical reporter who, with Fred’s help, confronts and overcomes his own personal demons. Susan Kelechi Watson and Wendy Makkena are also great as the wives of the two men, the son and the father, who are frustrated by the inability of their husbands to breach the division between them. Chris Cooper is superb as the father, who desperately wants to make amends for what he did and just wants a little mercy, grace and love from his son. Finally, Maryann Plunkett perfectly embodies Mrs. Rogers. She knows her man, and she assures the reporter that what you see is what you get. Mister Rogers is the real deal.
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD has a strong Christian, moral worldview that extols forgiveness, kindness, love, grace, and prayer. At one point, Fred’s wife tells Lloyd that her husband reads Scripture every night and prays for a list of friends and family members. Later, the movie shows Fred on his knees praying to God for Lloyd and other people. Thus, in the end, the movie presents a winsome, delightful evangelism of the heart.
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is one of the year’s best, most moving, most inspiring movies. The ending is perfect!
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