The opening scene of A Beautiful Neighborhood Day is not quite the biography of beloved children's television titan Fred Rogers, establishes a connection between the screen and the audience initially calms down and then gets distracted. The door opens to a living room that will be familiar to anyone who was or had a child between 1968 and 2001, the years . The Rogers Quarter aired on public television across the country and on walks Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks) dressed in the outer-adult world of his jacket and shoes. As he turns into his red waistcoat and dark blue t-shirts, he greets us in his usual gentle, casual way, saying that it is great to be with us and that there are many things he would like to share today. Then, just when we are relaxing in the movie we think we are in, it is a warmly nostalgic tribute to a respected cultural figure played by one but equally respected actor – Mr. Rodgers opens one of the windows of the cut paper house next to him to reveal the face of a handsome young man with a bewildered look and a bloody cut to one eye. "I'd like you to meet my friend Lloyd," he says.
Given that Fred Rogers painstakingly reviewed all the scripts on his show to make sure there was nothing that would unnecessarily traumatize or confuse the children (even when he discussed such topics as death, divorce, and political murder), it can certainly be said that the introduction of such a photograph would never have taken place in an episode of Mr. Rogers Quarter . With the sudden entry of Lloyd and his terrible injuries on his face into the safe space of Mr. Rogers' house, the public's connection to what unfolds on the screen changes dramatically. A minute ago, we were booths for kids watching the show; now we seem to be in the brain of Matthew Rhys, a cynical Esquire reporter who is tasked with profiling Rogers for a review of inspirational portraits. This sense of dislocation continues throughout the film: Is the whole opening scene, like a series of surreal interludes, just a figment of Lloyd's imagination?
One Lovely Day is based on an article by Tom Junod reporter from 1998. Esquire whose name has been changed and its story is essentially rewritten for the movie. The "real" Lloyd never punches his estranged father (Chris Cooper) during his sister's wedding and bumps right back, thus reporting bloody, blank eyes on the photo. Nor did Junod have a wife with a newborn son at a time when he was too obsessed with work to give them the time and attention they needed. But Junod had his own lasting family traumas and internal resistance to change, and the journalist said Lloyd's friendship with Fred Rogers greatly reflects what Junod and Rogers have shared over the last five years of the latter's life.
The charming but disappointing Beautiful Neighborhood Day is therefore not a standard biop, but a very close reincarnation of a particular connection at the end of a person's life. It's debatable whether Fred Rogers is even the subject of this movie, as Lloyd Vogel's character gets significantly more screen time. More importantly, this is Lloyd whose subjectivity is exposed in scenes such as those pop-ups in the cropping house or later when he shrinks to the size of the puppets that inhabit Mr. Rogers's neighborhood makeup – I believe. Rogers' hunky incarnation – no doubt the reason many viewers are curious to see this movie – is astonishing in its depth and richness, but the character still remains a mystery that we never come close to solving. The well-developed plot follows Lloyd, his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson), their infant son and Lloyd's extended family; meanwhile, we rarely see Fred and his wife Joan (Marian Plunkett) together, and then never without Lloyd in the room with them. Fans of Mr. Rogers – or the excellent documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? who broke the box office records in 2018 – can be forgiven for wishing Fred a little more and Lloyd less.
A Beautiful Neighborhood Day is not a biography, but a very close reincarnation of a particular connection at the end of a person's life (19459030) .
Still, Heller's third film after two near-perfect early takeaways, the high school commercial comedy The Diary of a Teenage Girl and the Real Crime Drama Can You Forgive Me? comes from its honesty honestly. In fact, what seems to interest the film's director of the story is the initial awkwardness of the match between the journalist and the subject, the bold, worried Lloyd and the pious Christian, supernaturally patient Fred. Lloyd's reputation as a journalist (established in a few too hasty and formulated scenes with his editor, played by Christine Lahti) is like a manipulator of the fake, the discoverer of the dark recesses behind every apparently sunny story. But as he discovers, after a few days in the queue of a well-known television operator on the set and on the road, Mr. Rogers really is exactly what Mr. Rogers looks like, whether he unwittingly makes any customer cry out loud at a Chinese restaurant doing his day trips to a swimming pool or a subway ride in New York, where a pack of kids, eventually joined by adults in the car, greets him with the theme of his own show.
It's not that Fred Rogers doesn't have unexplored dark places. In a scene where he shows Lloyd the puppets, which are the show's longtime props, the mighty King Friday 13 and Daniel Tiger's shy volatile ego, Fred's inability to stop deflecting questions by answering the votes of the puppets hint at some deep-seated nucleus of his personality. And when he lists healthy ways to deal with anger and aggression, he proposes to kill all the low notes of the piano at once, then demonstrates the resulting cacophony with un-Mr. Rogers – like the joy of pure noise. But whether because of the script (by Mika Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster) or because of Heller and Hanks' discretion in choosing how much to show us, Fred's character (or "Horn" as his wife calls him) remains stubbornly opaque. We see an abundance of him, who is an intuitive teacher, a trained Presbyterian minister, and an impromptu therapist to an extended network of friends, fans, and new strangers. But we rarely see a wife, a father (Rogers' two sons never appear as heroes) or a private person.
The final third of the film, in which Lloyd and his aging father begin to rebuild relations through the ministries of the ever-engaged Mr. Rogers, from time to time hang under the weight of affective excess. The supporting characters who support Rhys and Cooper in these scenes, especially Watson as Lloyd's loving but well-nourished wife, at times seem like scripting scenarios to give our character something to fight, to disappoint, and then seek forgiveness. The best-written link in the movie so far remains the one between Mr. Rogers and Lloyd, who perceived it early, despite their temperamental differences, each had something to offer the other. And the ongoing potential for a batch in a movie to access one's inner child is offset by the dedication to visual whimsy and playfulness that Michelle Gondry can recall. The recurring photos of Pittsburgh and New York, the two cities where most of the action unfolds, were created by miniatures resembling toys filled with small moving cars, referring to the original credits of the PBS series.
These anti-realistic touches, combined with the naturalistic performances of the two waters, place us in a particular narrative world, not so distant from the bifurcated universe of . Rogers Quarter where a tiny trolley will transport viewers from the world of living room activities to the real space of talking puppets. This tension – between reality and fantasy, the importance of honesty and the need to escape – is reflected in the film's mysterious last shot, a rare moment of loneliness for Hanks' Fred Rogers as he lingers on the soundstage after once again recording a reliably soothing show. In a few seconds, Fred does something unexpected, a gesture made for the benefit of no one but himself, and we get a brief sense of the unsettled depths beneath the surface of the person we have grown up thinking we know.