A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

One Genuine Article, The Rest is Forgery


25 November 2019| No Comments on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood     by Sean Chavel


Substandard biopic on a subject I care a ton about. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was a film I eagerly anticipated for half a year, and while it has kind-hearted moments, it took less than a day to casually brush off scrooge Matthew Rhys from the baggage. You shouldn’t make a Fred Rogers biopic and put believably saintly figure Tom Hanks as the children’s TV legend in it for just over thirty-three percent of the time.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t quote Boston critic Sean Burns’s pinpoint summation as to why this film fails: “It comes off like what would’ve happened if ‘Citizen Kane’ had devoted half the movie to the home life of that reporter who was investigating Rosebud.”

Rhys’ investigative reporter Lloyd Vogel is assigned to pen a 400-word capsule on Rogers but ends up writing a lengthy, lump in the throat cover story. The movie overspends its time getting very personal with Rhys’ character, a fictionalized version on reporter Tom Junod. Gee, all I could wonder, all of this feels like a supplementary film and the real Fred Rogers docudrama hasn’t even been made yet. But we do have the awesome 2018 documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” to nevertheless hold onto.

Director Marielle Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) will rebound from this. What’s good by her? She uses dainty miniature architecture for scene transitions, she knows how to extract delicacy from her performers, she can set a blithe tone when she needs to, she has a knack for resurrecting past decades to make them feel in the now. Heller does everything right, except her shooting a script that takes the wrong approach to begin with.

The whole thing just makes me long for a conventionally packaged, connect-the-dots biopic that grandiosely covers the whole arc of a single life.

Yeah, I’m on board convinced that Fred Rogers can save the soul of a single journalist. I went in already on board with that belief. But the broader horoscopy of Fred Rogers, not properly conveyed here, is that he helped save the soul of an entire American culture.

108 Minutes. Rated PG.


Film Cousins: “Blast From the Past” (1999); “Life Itself” (2014); “The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography” (2017); “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (2018).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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