I watched A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood either on On Demand or cable or a streaming channel – can’t remember which.
I have not seen the Mister Rogers documentary. I was not going out of my way to see this movie either. Mister Rogers was not part of my childhood – he came onto the scene in time for the kids who I babysat to watch. I would catch glimpses of it; maybe even watch an entire program. But he never spoke to me the way he spoke to so many people.
But this movie is not Fred Rogers’ story. This is Lloyd Vogel’s story (or at least sort of his story – the journalist Tom Junod made them change his name because of what he felt were too many inaccuracies). Esquire is doing an article on heroes and Vogel is chosen to write about Fred Rogers. Vogel is used to doing hard-hitting journalism and feels this is beneath him. But none of the other subjects are willing to be interviewed by him because he is one of those journalists who charms the subject and then annihilates them in the story.
Matthew Rhys does sad sack very well. I first saw him in Brothers & Sisters, where he was the sad sack gay brother. He is the person who grows and changes. Despite himself, Mister Rogers speaks to him and Vogel ends up forgiving his father and making up to his wife and son for not spending enough time with them.
Mister Rogers takes on Lloyd Vogel as a project. He sees an angry young man and he goes out of his way to show him how to let go of your anger and forgive so that you can move forward. This was the weakest part for me because by encouraging Vogel to forgive, using puppets to make Vogel think about his childhood, and saying he strikes the low keys on the piano when he is angry, I do not know see how or why Rogers would have such a moving effect on Vogel.
Maybe Rogers in person had a charisma that never came across to me. Tom Hanks certainly has a charisma that comes across but it is not enough. And in every movie where Hanks plays a good guy, there is an underlying anger that sometimes seeps out. In this case it is when Fred Rogers himself bangs the low keys on the piano. And we never find out what he is angry about because that is the end of the movie.
The guy landing the plane on the Hudson, the guy on the island with the soccer ball, the guy who falls in love with the mermaid, the guy emailing with a rival, the lawyer with AIDS. Just like the actor he is most compared to – Jimmy Stewart – there is anger underneath every good guy they portray. It helps to make their characters more than one-dimensional white hats.
I know a lot of people loved this movie but I am glad it is not a movie I went out of my way to see in theaters.
By Carene Lydia Lopez