A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Unconventional Filmmaking
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not a film about Fred Rogers, otherwise known as Mr. Rogers. It’s actually a film about Lloyd Vogel, played by Matthew Rhys who is known for The Americans.
The film is directed by Marielle Heller, who really gives this film personality and does a wonderful juxtaposition of Fred Rogers, the idealist, and LLoyd Vogel, the cynic.
It’s a film about Vogel overcoming his own personal pain and anger using the almost supernatural kindness and compassion of Mr. Rogers, played by Tom Hanks.
Tom Hanks completely embodies the role to perfection. He adopts all of the mannerisms and even the soft voice that Fred Rogers is known for. Tom Hanks truly disappears into the role.
Hanks plays him exactly how you would expect him to act, so there is no curveballs. He is never out of character. Mr. Rogers is the same person 24/7. He never tries to put on a different face for different crowds. Mr. Rogers is always himself. Much to Lloyd Vogel’s chagrin.
Vogel is an investigative reporter for Esquire Magazine. He is known for totally blindsiding interviewees with his articles, as they tend to basically destroy them publicly.
Vogel says during the film several times that it is his job to do so. Vogel is a very cynical man especially juxtaposed with Hanks’ Fred Rogers.
Two very different men. Vogel is a man who has only seen mankind at their absolute worst, which is where his pain and anger comes from. Rogers is the eternal optimist who believes that human beings can always be better than their worst day. He is a true believer in humanity.
This film uses Fred Rogers’ original television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, as a lens for the film. The transitions when the film moves on from one location to another, the show would use miniatures styled like the original miniatures of the neighborhood from the show.
The film even has small segments from the show that honestly fit the story being told, but when Fred Rogers uses his puppets and talks to the audience and Lloyd Vogel at different points, it shows how out of place he really is compared to the rest of the world.
But, it also shows how important and unique he is to the world. It can be a little jarring because of how it slightly pulls the audience out of the film because of the slight corniness in using kids television as part of a film about adult perceptions of pain and rage.
This is unconventional film making of an unconventional character, Mr. Rogers is unconventional, always filled with kindness and compassion even when Lloyd Vogel doesn’t want it.
But, the puppets and television show ends up being some of the most interesting pieces of the film, but also the worst parts of it, as it takes the viewer out of the film. It is a rather interesting approach to making a film involving Fred Rogers, but it ends up being quite too jarring.
The film does a fantastic job of not only showing how Fred Rogers has affected the world and the people in it, but how those people each affected Fred Rogers in a very unique way.
The film has a very unique vision and feels like it could only ever be directed by Marielle Heller. The film has lots of heart and soul and does a great job showing the world that it is okay to forgive.
This is a light movie in a very dark time. It makes one believe in humanity again. The film is an 8 out of 10.
The only small critique of the film uses the original television show to try and connect with the audience, which is the only point of the movie that doesn’t work.