• June 5, 2020
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We could all use a little kindness — that one phrase perfectly sums up this movie. Heartwarming and simple, it will remind you of the value of being kind. (Photo Used by Permission of Jen Thompson)

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a movie that came out November 22, opens strong, reflecting the nostalgia of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mister Rogers, played by Tom Hanks, opens the door to childhood memories. In the classic show, Mister Rogers would walk in his iconic home, put on a red sweater, navy tennis shoes, and addressed the issues facing all people.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the historic retelling of the relations between Fred Rogers and Lloyd Vogel, a journalist for Esquire. Even as a true story, the directors of this movie, Marielle Heller, chose to change this journalist’s name from Tom Junod to Lloyd. This movie is mainly based on the true article by Tom Junod in Esquire Magazine, along with scenes added to the story line by producers.

Lloyd called himself an investigative journalist, but his editor at Esquire Magazine is about to push him beyond his limits. She asks him to write one feature on a special person: Fred Rogers. His task — to write a simple 400 word piece highlighting his life. Lloyd’s reputation, though, is filled with stories of him finding all the flaws in a person and publishing them for the world to see. Mister Rogers knew this and yet he chose to talk to Lloyd. Although the task is simple and short, Lloyd makes it his personal task to discover who Mister Rogers really is, when he’s not performing for an audience. 

Fred answers the phone with a calm hello. Everytime he speaks, he is inviting someone to sit with him, let their guard down, and be themselves. Lloyd has been skeptical of this for a long time. When he visits Fred at his studio in Pittsburgh, he walks in during the recording of his show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood. “Though I tried to ask him questions about himself, he always turned the questions back on me,” said Lloyd in his article. Mister Rogers is somehow able to reach into Lloyd’s past and get him to tell things he could barely remember.

Everywhere Mister Rogers goes, people know him. Lloyd’s wife, upon hearing that he will be interviewing Mister Rogers, fondly remembers his show. On the subway, a car of mostly minority children, law enforcement officers, and families don’t ask him for an autograph. Instead, all slowly start to sing the classic song, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Simple gestures like this mean the world to him.

Throughout the movie, the emotions of the characters draw the audience in — Lloyd’s relationship with his father creates empathy in all who can understand the tension within a family. The entirety of the movie is a building of relationships — Lloyd struggles with how to honor his wife and tries to be the father he never felt he had to his son, all while mending this bond with his father.   

It needs to be said that this is not the movie you should be looking for to learn all about Mister Rogers. There is plenty about his show and some of his backstory. You hear about his family, wife and children, and the production of his show. But mostly, it’s about the people he influences, specifically Lloyd. Lloyd’s life flips upside down in a few short weeks. It’s about him, and how Mister Rogers changes his life.

Overall, the movie moved slowly. Mister Rogers’s own words are slow and calculated. This is consistent with his character, and it shows how deliberate and kind he is, but it slows the storyline down. The plot itself moves hesitantly, using each scene for an extended time to allow the audience to fully grasp its significance. It allows time to process but can be nap-inducing at points.

I won’t spoil it too much, but as in most inspirational movies, everything works out in the end. Relationships are mended, friendships formed, and hearts healed. Mister Rogers shows many traits including humility, kindness, and empathy. All are much needed in today’s world.

Other than the slow pace, it was uplifting, sweet, and heartwarming. Vox called it “a delightfully weird drama, framed and shot deliberately to feel like a grown-up episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Whereas Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood teaches hard lessons to young minds, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood teaches adults that they still haven’t learned all the lessons.

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