It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a historical drama that tells the story of a journalist working for Esquire who is assigned to profile the iconic children’s television personality, Fred Rogers. This sounds simple enough, yet the central conflict exists between the journalist and his father, which the beloved Mr. Rogers in the beginning only provokes. Unknown to this journalist, Lloyd Vogel, played by Matthew Rhys, he has quite the journey ahead of himself in getting to know the best friend in the neighborhood.
Watch It: If you want to see Tom Hanks in a role perfectly cast for him, an eccentric filmmaking style, and a drama that follows someone who encounters the love and affirmation of Fred Rogers.
Skip It: If you want to see a biographical film that centers on Fred Rogers. This is a historical drama, oscillating back and forth between a journalist’s family and Mr. Rogers on the set of his iconic television show (for the most part).
It’s a Beautiful Day is perhaps the most relevant film to me personally this year. From the opening shot of the children’s show I watched as a small child (an 80’s baby), to emotional difficulties I’ve had that the journalist struggles with, to being a writer, this film in many ways felt as though Tom Hanks/Mr. Rogers was speaking to me in breaking the fourth wall all too eerily!
This doesn’t mean I thought it was an all-out amazing film. To be honest, It’s a Beautiful Day works as a good film, but a few factors keep it from being one of the best of the year. Fortunately, one of those things has nothing to do with Tom Hanks. Hanks embodies the spirit of Rogers in a way I don’t think anyone else could. This year, there are so many awards contenders for acting categories, that I’ve given up guessing who should or will get nominated!
But Hanks, in contrast to giving a perfected impersonation of Rogers, goes deeper and somehow embodies the spirit of Rogers with every handshake and puppet performance he makes on screen. This to me is more difficult than mere impersonation. In fact, I never could get away personally from it being Tom Hanks on screen. Yet this didn’t matter. This was a rare film where the actor’s portrayal of the person’s spirit came through more than anything.
In terms of the film, director Marielle Heller has crafted a unique and eccentric film, arguably around a unique and eccentric icon. This won’t work for everyone, and it didn’t quite work for me. Scene transitions, odd musical decisions for potent scenes, and the dynamic between the scenes with Rogers and those of Vogel at times are a bit clunky and struggle. In short, this isn’t necessarily a smooth film.
As a recommendation, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a good film that leaves you with moving, powerful messages of acceptance and individuality. It is well-written and will relate to many around the country, much more than to those a part of Generation Z or those on the much younger end of the Millennial spectrum. Though it is a historical drama, I still think the film would’ve benefitted from a bit more backstory towards the life of Rogers and his “burdens,” burdens that essentially made him so beautifully human.
Zimm Score: 7.3/10