When I first heard that a feature film had cast Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers - the beloved creator and host of the children's television show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood - my first thought is that it was going to be a pointless narrative feature retelling of the fabulous 2018 documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor?. Happily, it's not. In fact, Hanks' Rogers plays a supporting role in this uplifting drama.
Inspired by true events, Neighborhood tells the story of Esquire Magazine's investigating reporter Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) who is begrudgingly assigned to interview Mister Rogers (Hanks) for a fluff piece on "heroes". Vogel's wife, Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) is rightfully worried that Lloyd will try to dig up dirt on the nice person that is Mister Rogers. Almost immediately in their meeting, however, Rogers uncovers Lloyd's own anger and resentment towards his father (Chris Cooper) who abandoned young Lloyd and his terminally ill mother years ago. With wisdom, kindness and patience, Rogers helps Lloyd to a path of forgiveness.
A framing devise of having Lloyd as a subject of discussion on the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood TV show, as well as dream sequences of Lloyd thinking he is on the show doesn't really work, but the central adult drama does. Hanks in make-up vaguely resembles Fred Rogers, but he truly embodies the man. It's not simply an imitation, but a full-bodied performance.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a pleasant and thoughtful movie and director Marielle Heller never allows it to get overly sappy. It's a worthy drama.