A Beautiful Day at the Theater

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Tom Hanks-starrer A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony Pictures), directed by Marielle Heller and recounting the life of the beloved TV personality Mr. Rogers, is impacting the American theaters just in time to light up the Holiday season. A cathartic little miracle that can revive the purity of your child’s heart, before it was ever broken. 

By Tommaso Cartia

Joanne Rogers
Joanne Rogers

“Fred used to say that the space between the television set and the person watching it was holy ground. And I believe that it is true in this theater today. And may I add that I know that Fred would be thrilled to have Tom Hanks representing him on the big screen.” Joanne Rogers – Fred Roger’s widow.

It couldn’t be introduced in a more sweet and yet powerful way the press screening of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, as that day I was truly looking for a holy ground to unwind. It was a dark and stormy day… in New York City when I walked to the movie theater, one of those days where the spirits of the island of Manhattan seem to get together to conspire against you, possessing your umbrella that cracks and blows away, your traveling Starbucks that spills, your subway ride that gets delayed for a police investigation. It seemed all very gloomy and moody until I comfily sit, and Mr. Rogers appears on the big screen. Thoughtfulness, brightness, charm, acumen, all that Fred Rogers was for generations of kids and young/adults, wrapped up the audience with a pitch-perfect classical narration that still can perform that cathartic little miracle to turn your day around and make you think of the beauty and goodness in people with the purity of your child’s heart, before it was ever broken. 

The miracle is served by the exquisite touch of Marielle Heller who, after the lyrically riveting exploit of Can You Ever Forgive Me? last year, has continued to craft her voice, establishing herself as a contemporary poetess of the silver screen. As she turns the pages of the encounter between Mr. Rogers and Lloyd Vogel (Tom Junod in real life, played by Matthew Rhys), the Esquire journalist who in 1998 was assigned to write a profile on him; Heller gently paints them in pastel-colors dreamy frames. She elegantly orchestrates the camera to embrace the audience as she gets into the fairytale world of Fred Rogers, and out in the more grainy-grey world of Lloyd Vogel, who struggles with a life filled with anger, cynicism and the unresolved issues with a complicated father figure (Chris Cooper).

Heller has the best crayons box in her hands, a cast of stellar actors. Tom Hanks is giving us his boy-next-door charm, playing both the Fred Roger’s inner child and enlightened young/adult with all the complexity, and apparent naivete, that reminds you of his Forrest, and reminds you, he will be probably get that Oscar nomination he has been missing since 2001’s Castaway. Matthew Rhys is strongly believable, neurotic, strong and fragile, dark and lightened at the same time, he is the audience, he is me on my stormy and cloudy day… until he is rescued by the least expected of the Wise-Men. Other notable performances are the ones of Chris Cooper, the despicable and yet tenderly human Lloyd’s father figure, Susan Kelechi Watson (Lloyd’s wife), and Wendy Makkena, in the pivotal role of Cooper’s girlfriend. 

In a movie world saturated of superheroes that are, at times, less heroic than the stuntmen playing them and the special effects acting them under the table; A Beautiful Day is here to remind us of the simple magic of good storytelling and a real, empathetic hero and role-model like Fred Rogers was for his time and Tom Hanks can still be in the entertainment business. 

And if this movie can brighten up even a stormy and cloudy New York’s day, it is indeed that holy ground we’ve been waiting to face the midst of Winter and enjoy our cozy times under the Christmas Tree’s lights. 

Be ready, set and imagine with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and our upcoming exclusive interview with Actress Wendy Makkena. Thank you Integrated PR and Monique Moss for the coordination of the piece and the interview. 

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