movie thoughts: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

I am wondering if I would have enjoyed this movie more if I had not watched the documentary ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor’. 

While advertised as a movie being about Mr. Rogers, it really is about a cynical journalist learning to love again. Lloyd Vogel is tasked with writing a profile piece on Fred Rogers for Esquire magazine’s “Heroes” issue. Vogel, a man with a rough childhood and a lot of anger built up inside towards father figures, is not in the mood for Rogers’ brand of kindness. Based on a true story, Vogel’s time with Rogers begins to make him rethink his approach to life.

Sound kind of cheesy? Yeah, it is, but the cast pulls it all together and makes it an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. 

Hanks’ Fred Rogers impersonation is strong but because we only see him in bits and pieces, it really doesn’t quite drive home how Rogers really was – it feels like the act that Vogel says it is. Mathew Rhys as Vogel does a great job of looking SO FREAKING TIRED ALL THE TIME. How does he do it? I don’t know, but I am ready to see this talented actor in a role where he gets to be well-rested and smile for a bit. Anyway, these two had a great dynamic and the best parts of the movie were their interactions.

This movie assumes you know and admire Fred Rogers before you start watching – I’d like to talk to someone who didn’t grow up with Mr. Rogers and know what they thought of the movie, which tries to frame itself like an episode of the show, starting out with Rogers doing his intro song and talking to us through the camera, outside the cities of Pittsburgh and New York are rendered in the same miniatures as neighborhood itself. If you have no frame of reference for the series, does any of this make sense? Does it feel avante garde? Or just confusing?

If you enjoyed this movie at all, I would HIGHLY recommend picking up ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor’ for a more rounded view of Fred Rogers – he was a very private man, but the documentary gives you more of his story and the impact of his work on ‘Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood’ which I think is kind of glossed over in the movie beyond the adults reacting to his presence.

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