Film: A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
Cast: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper, Susan Kelechi Watson
Director: Marielle Heller
Rating: * * * * and a half
To be a saint is to have an exceptional degree of holiness or nearness to God.
Fred McFeely Rogers, the American television host, musician, puppeteer, writer, producer, and central character of the beautiful film under review, would have been canonised. Rogers was deeply religious, profoundly spiritual, a Presbyterian minister; a significant fact this movie marginalises.
There is a scene where Rogers (Tom Hanks, riveting) prays for people on bended knee. But that’s about it. The fact is, Rogers was a devoted father and husband who stayed married to his college sweetheart /concert pianist wife Joanne for 50 years.
Every one (well almost) persists in calling television the idiot box. Rogers thought differently. Firm in the belief that television could be harnessed for the public good, he started a children’s show to promote self esteem, self control, imagination, creativity, curiosity, appreciation of diversity, cooperation, patience, and persistence. Oh, the list is long and I could go on and on...
Who would have thought a children’s program could do so much good? Rogers worked miracles and brought about real change when he addressed issues of grief, loss and abandonment, infidelity, anger, forgiveness etc in the program he helmed for 33 years.
But the movie is not so much a biopic as it is about wounded broken people from dysfunctional families. Like Lloyd (Matthew Rhys) Vogel the cynical, depressed Esquire magazine writer who is tasked against his will to write a 400 word profile and winds up doing a 10,000 word cover story.
Lloyd is based on real-life writer Tom Junod, and director Marielle Heller adapts his experiences with Rogers with bravura and panache. Alternating between the whimsical, the dreamlike, poignant and realistic, Heller’s Oscar worthy film is, like Rogers, intensely Inspirational.