A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not about Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) it’s about his effect on people. The documentary from last year: Wont You Be My Neighbor is specifically about Rogers and is a better film. Not to take away from the heart of this film but the documentary is more effective.
Here Fred Rogers who began his television work on WQED in Pittsburgh becomes the assignment given to Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys – TV’s The Americans) by Ellen his editor (Christine Lahti) for Esquire magazine.
The film is based on the article “Can You Say…Hero”? By Tom Junod which was published in the November 1, 1998, issue of Esquire magazine.
Vogel at the beginning of the story is a tough unhappy writer who hammers away at most folks he is assigned to interview. His editor has decided he should interview Fred Rogers for a hero edition of the magazine. She only asks for about 400 words and makes it clear that he must do this interview because it is assigned and also to force him into a position which requires dealing with Rogers, who is different from others he has written about.
Rogers introduces Vogel on his Neighborhood show in a picture that shows Vogel with a nasty cut across his nose. The cut was produced when Vogel had a fist fight with his father Jerry (Chris Cooper – Adaptation) at his brother’s wedding. The background reaches to the time when Lloyd Vogel lost his mother and places much of the blame for her death on his father.
The heart of the film deals with Roger’s gentle effect on Vogel as the interviews continue over a period of time. Using his puppets and calm sense of understanding Rogers changes Vogel’s life. It’s rather a simple story but Hanks as Rogers pulls us into the mind and heart of the iconic children’s TV host who is in the right place to help Vogel throughout the film.
Bill Isler (Enrico Colantoni – Galaxy Quest) is the lead man for Rogers who brings the first steps of the essence of Rogers to Vogel.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood moves a little slowly from time to time but so does Rogers and in the end brings a heartwarming ending to this episode in Fred Roger’s life.