Surprising how things can turn out. I was greatly moved by this movie. Funny how The Powers of Reflection can so swirl, and so shine back on things. “Things” can and do truly improve in this world of frailty.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a slow moving, emotional, drama centered about that most slow-moving character of all, public television’s Mr. Rogers. It’s based on the true story of the deliberate effect Rogers had on the life of a talented and successful, but deeply cynical, young man; a journalist who comes to interview Rogers for Esquire magazine.
I must admit I have always been a sucker for “Billy Budd” characters and that is Fred Rogers. He is Lenny from Of Mice and Men; he is the slow, deeply religious and epileptic brother from The Brothers Karamazov. They are seemingly too good to be true, or at least too good for this world. Simple, honest, kind, and profoundly right; it’s Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump all over again.
Maybe this movie does take this man and raises him beyond what he was. Who cares? The movie skillfully suggests that Fred had his faults and failings too, but Fred keeps working at them and this in literal ways. He practiced self-reflective techniques, one of which quieted the theater and brought me into reflections on my own less-than-ideal life and personality. Fred prayed; he read the Bible and was very religious. It is the kind of religion — it would seem to have to be — that only brought out the humility and love in this man. He was not judgmental at all, no matter what his opinions might have been. It’s a kind of religion that we don’t often enough find. Fred, also, played and believed in puppets.
I’m not saying that you might not fall asleep. This movie not for everyone. It’s not about escaping life through a series of exhilarating and fake car-chase scenes. It is about embracing the kindest side of life and holding on to it. It’s about emotions and healing and men.
Director, Marielle Heller, does a masterful job. She has put together a movie with an ingenious approach to presenting a man that spent his life talking in the simplest fashion to four-year-olds. She took Fred Rogers’ “Land of Make Believe” and made it more important than I ever realized it was. She shows us a hero of a truly unique sort. And Tom Hanks is masterful as Fred; a portrayal of the man that is maybe more memorable than the real man, himself.
‘God’ bless you, Mr. Rogers.