If Tom Hanks doesn’t at least get nominated for supporting actor for his portrayal of Fred Rogers in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD this year, I would definitely say the Academy doesn’t really care about him anymore. I get why he didn’t get nominated for his last two pretty good performance, Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks, but not giving him recognition for this one would be inexcusable. He doesn’t just portray Fred Rogers in this, he embodies him. Sometimes I completely forgot it was Hanks in the role, it was incredible. But the real question? Is the movie any good, because I’ve said it a billion times, a great performance does not make a movie. Well the good new neighbor, is that yes, the movie is thankfully pretty solid too. It’s about learning to forgive and how to deal with your feelings that culminates in something heartful yet heartbreaking. So much so that a lot of you will like it, but only be able to watch it once.

Now if you are interested in seeing it, know going into it that this isn’t a biography on Fred Rogers. If you want something like that I would recommend last years fantastic documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, which was completely snubbed at the Oscars and for no good reason. This film is a “inspired by true events” type of affair which should have a lot more quotation marks and asterisks around the word “inspired.” This all connects together for you know as you were probably wondering why I said Tom Hanks should get a supporting nomination instead of lead even though he is the first name on all the marketing and promotional materials. This film is about a man named Lloyd Vogel (very far off from the real person’s name that inspired this story) that is writing a piece on Fred Rogers for Esquire. We get to know this man much much much more than Fred Rogers. We learn that he’s trying to be there for his wife and his newborn son. More than his father ever was, and we learn that he can’t forgive his father for some pretty big and arguably unforgiving reasons that to tell you any of them would ruin most of the movie. The man basically learns through his interviews for his piece of Fred Rogers the power of feelings, how to control them, and how to forgive.

The film starts off ingeniously though, where it seems like they are going to do a whole entire reenactment of one of the episodes of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, and a little of the ways into it, sets up the story of Vogel. Everything about recreating Mr. Rogers Neighborhood is absolutely uncanny. It changes aspect ratio when it goes back to the show, with that grainy television feel, and Tom Hanks doesn’t just do an impersonation of Fred Rogers, he embodies him to the point where I couldn’t even tell it was Tom Hanks during much of the run time. Matthew Rhys plays Vogel, the tormented man with an inability to forgive, and I’ve never seen Rhys on his most famous and praise worthy role, that on The Americans, I just know that here he was fantastic as well, and his performance makes me actually want to check out the finished show on Netflix, whenever I can find the time. Chris Cooper plays the father, a tormented soul himself, trying not only to make amends with his son, but trying to forgive himself for his sins of the past. Cooper is usually reliable in any role he takes, even The Muppets, so it is no surprise here that he brings his A game to Neighborhood as well. Enrico Colantoni has a small but quirky role as a manager of Fred Rogers, and his small moments give the film the comic relief that it needs.

For those of you disappointed that the film isn’t really about Fred Rogers, fear not, as Hanks and some of the aspects of the show are in the film quite a bit. It shows the making of some of the segments, Hanks embodying even the puppets that Fred Rogers used to control and voice for the program. The movie also delves a little bit into Rogers private life, such as his relationship with his wife and his sons, tidbits that you would maybe want to follow up on, which in that case, again, I’d recommend watching the documentary, as it gives you more of the whole picture. Watching this film and that film makes for the perfect double feature. This is a more fictionalized account of Fred Rogers helping out a journalist that “saved his life.” The article this movie is based on is real, the inspiration the journalist got out of Rogers is real, and Rogers is real, but I have a feeling that a lot of the conversations and situations they showed on screen were highly fictionalized, hence the “inspired” part of the true story that you see flash on screen during the opening credits. But that’s okay, as the whole movie packs an emotional wallop with these aspects, and could even inspire the coldest of hearts out there who actually find the time to give this film a chance. The movie certainly isn’t a re-watchable kind of thing, as some will find it maybe a little too depressing and emotional to keep recollecting over and over again, but it is a very solid one time viewing. It has a solid message we should all learn and seeing Hanks extraordinary performance is a requirement.


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