If even for the briefest lapse of a synapse, you have forgotten just how great an actor Tom Hanks is, please rush out and see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” You will not regret it.
About five minutes into this “based upon,” I had to pinch myself to remember that who I saw on screen was Tom Hanks, the actor, and not Fred Rogers, the TV star. For a movie star/actor as famous as Hanks to wholly disappear into a character requires acting of the highest level. Whew.
I will do just one spoiler. The film has as a starting point a magazine article written by a cynical New Yorker, Lloyd Vogel. Early in the two’s acquaintance, Vogel asks Rogers how he manages the on-screen character, Mr. Rogers, with the real-life person Fred Rogers. Rogers just looks at the reporter, clearly not understanding the question. Grand.
Matthew Rhys plays the reporter. Rhys has more than 50 acting credits and does an excellent job as a psychically wounded human who comes to terms with meeting a man who is as good and decent as he seems. That makes the turning point in the film. The New Yorker discovers that goodness exists on such a personal level and that emulating that goodness makes us better and happier. It makes the people we love happier too. Good to know. Chris Cooper, who we know from many roles as a bad guy or at least a not nice guy, plays the reporter’s estranged father.
Marielle Heller directs. She has acting, directing, and writing credits. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” makes her first big film directorial debut.
Writers Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue penned the script. They often work as a team, most recently on “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.”
The very gentle “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” runs for one hour and 48 minutes. It carries a family-friendly PG rating, a rare event. This charming and inspirational film gets a warm four saw blades.
Tom Hanks has done a batch of other true or semi-true biographical films. These include “Sully” about the hero pilot who saved his passengers, “Bridge of Spies” featuring the man who negotiated for the release of Francis Gary Powers, “Catch Me if you Can,” “Apollo 13,” “The Terminal” and he played Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks.” I like him best in the beautiful romantic comedies “You’ve Got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” but he really can do it all.
Fred Rogers once said, “Three things are needed for success. 1. To be kind. 2. To be kind. 3. To be kind.” We might find it hard to follow that advice on all occasions, but the trying helps us nearly as much as the succeeding.