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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a biopic based on the unlikely real-life friendship between Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) and journalist Tom Junod (Matthew Rhys). In the movie, cynical writer Lloyd (a fictionalized version of Junod) is hesitant to believe that TV's Mister Rogers can truly be "the nicest man on earth," but as he and Rogers bond, Lloyd's life is slowly transformed, both personally and professionally. Hanks playing Rogers will be enough to appeal to many viewers, and kids familiar with Rogers' show and legacy may be curious to find out whether the man in the cardigan was truly that compassionate and generous (spoiler alert? he was!). There's a little bit of violence (two punches thrown during a fight at a wedding reception) and adult substance use, as well as a couple uses of words like "hell" and "crap" and some marital kissing/cuddling. The movie also deals with serious themes like death, forgiveness, and estranged family relationships. But overall it's quite positive and inspiring. Rogers teaches everyone around him about the power of kindness, love, and connection. He encourages children and adults alike to believe that they're special, worthy of love, and capable of forgiveness.
- Parents say
- Kids say
Beautiful, INTENSE, Bittersweet *All spoilers listed in order for families to decide if their child is ready*
What's the story?
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD isn't a typical biopic, because it doesn't follow its central character through an extended portion of their life. Instead, the movie focuses on the transformational friendship between Esquire magazine journalist Lloyd Vogel (a character who's based on real-life writer Tom Junod and played by Matthew Rhys) and Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). Lloyd is assigned to profile Rogers for a special spread about cultural heroes. After Lloyd, who's estranged from his father, Jerry (Chris Cooper, always a pleasure to see) -- and has recently become a parent with his supportive wife, Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) -- meets Rogers for the first time, he can't believe the man could possibly be as nice as he seems. Their first interaction, on the set of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, is short, so Lloyd and Rogers meet up again and again, striking up an unlikely friendship that transcends that of writer and source.
Is it any good?
This drama is a poignant, powerful tribute to the man who's embodied kindness and love to children and adults for four decades, thanks to Hanks' fabulous performance. Director Marielle Heller's (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) second unconventional biographical drama isn't a straightforward birth-to-death chronicle but rather a fascinating look at how a jaded man who's highly cynical about father figures and role models learns to forgive, love, and trust more through his growing connection with Fred Rogers. Rhys is well cast as a distrustful Manhattan journalist (his wife, beautifully played by Watson, even begs him "please don't ruin my childhood") who slowly realizes that Rogers is the real thing.
Despite Rhys' compelling storyline as the emotionally closed-off Lloyd, this film belongs to Rogers -- and therefore to Hanks' portrayal of the soft-spoken, cardigan-sporting, devout children's programming creator. Hanks transforms into Rogers without it feeling like a strict imitation. Yes, he captures the essence of Rogers' speaking voice, walk, and overall demeanor (as far as anyone who watched the series is concerned), but the performance isn't a carbon copy; it's an homage. Fred and Lloyd's relationship leads to personal growth and acceptance, and the movie is full of Rogers' philosophy about each child, each person being precious. Rogers was indeed an extraordinary man, and the film is a reminder to everyone that generosity, kindness, security, and love are all we really need to be happy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Mister Rogers' messages in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. What did he teach Lloyd? How did Lloyd change thanks to his friendship with Fred?
What does Rogers mean by the idea that "anything human is mentionable, and anything mentionable is manageable"? How can viewers apply that idea in their own lives?
What current shows continue to educate and inspire the lessons and values that Rogers worked to instill in children?
- In theaters: November 22, 2019
- Cast: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson
- Director: Marielle Heller
- Studio: TriStar Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Integrity
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
- Last updated: November 26, 2019
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