A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a drama directed by Marielle Heller and written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, inspired by the 1998 article “Can You Say … Hero?” by Tom Junod, published in Esquire. The movie focuses on the relationship between Fred Rogers and Tom Junod. I’m so glad I decided to see this movie — it’s better than you think!
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood focuses on journalist, Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) whose life is anything but perfect. It’s 1998 and Lloyd is married to Andrea Vogel (Susan Kelchi-Watson), a public attorney and new mother. The two are struggling to maintain their marriage, mostly because of Lloyd’s cynical and pessimistic attitude. While he’s still employed by Esquire magazine, he’s on the verge of being let go of because he never has anything good to say about the people he’s written about. He’s given a new assignment and maybe his last, to interview and write about Fred Rogers of the acclaimed children’s show, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. The article has to be 400 words and categorized as a piece about heroes. Mr. Rogers was the only person who would allow Lloyd to interview him, which of course put Lloyd in his usual pessimistic state of mind.
You may believe Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was just a corny children’s show, but it taught some valuable lessons that were more than helpful to an impressionable child as well as an uninformed adult. Lloyd was estranged from his father who cheated on his mother before leaving her as she was dying of cancer. He also left his underaged children who went into foster care. When his father Jerry Vogel (Chris Cooper), showed up at Lloyd’s sister’s (Lorraine (Tammy Blanchard) wedding with the girlfriend he cheated on his wife with, (Dorothy (Wendy Makkeva) they get into a fistfight after an exchange of unpleasantries. Broken and angry, Lloyd travels to the WQED studio in Pittsburgh to interview Fred Rogers. Lloyd couldn’t and wouldn’t believe that Fred was legitimate. He told his wife Andrea, he had met the nicest man in the universe or the best con.
Upon meeting Fred, Lloyd discovered that Fred Rogers cared more about the interviewer than being interviewed. Fred worked with troubled children and their families to help them cope with depression, tragedy and death. He loved to take on dysfunctional families in order to teach them that there’s a better way to live. While many of the events in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood were true, like Fred’s friendship with Lloyd, whose real name is Tom Junod, whom Fred taught to appreciate himself and Mr. Roger’s use of puppets and his studio set up to attract a younger audience in order to make a better presentation.
I didn’t think I would enjoy A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood but I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t like the made-up parts of the story like the fact Tom Junod’s name was changed to Lloyd Vogel, I can’t figure why or the made-up wedding of Lloyd’s sister that never happened. The acting and the story were entertaining and since A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is based on a true story about Fred Roger’s and his relationship with Lloyd Vogel, I must say this film stayed focused on the prize. I highly recommend A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood to all, which grossed $61 million in the United States and Canada, and $1.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $62.2 million, against a production budget of $25 million. The aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 95%, based on 277 reviews, with an average rating of 8.18/10. The website’s critical consensus reads: “Much like the beloved TV personality that inspired it, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood offers a powerfully affecting message about acceptance and understanding.” Lloyd’s 10,000-word article, titled “Can You Say … Hero?”, is published as Esquire’s cover story. Check It Out!
[A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Tom Hanks) — Totaling 1 Oscar nomination]