The film ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ opens next week, telling the story of a journalist whose life is changed after meeting Mister Rogers.
Lloyd Vogel is a tenacious reporter for Esquire who always tackles the big stories—and if there’s dirt to be found, he uncovers it.
He writes about the crooked politicians and the lying businessmen. He finds out what people are really like when they’re not in the public eye.
In other words, he writes about “hard” news. And puff pieces? Those are for other reporters.
But then Vogel is given the task of writing a feature on Fred Rogers—the kid-friendly television host who, seemingly, is always kind.
Vogel is determined to uncover the real Mister Rogers.
“I’m supposed to go easy on this guy because he plays with puppets?” he rhetorically asks his editor.
Surely—Vogel thinks—Mister Rogers isn’t always kind.
“Please,” his wife begs, “don’t ruin my childhood.”
The film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PG) opens next week, starring Tom Hanks (Toy Story series, Bridge of Spies) as Rogers, Matthew Rhys (The Post) as Vogel, and Susan Kelechi Watson (This Is Us) as Vogel’s wife, Andrea.
The movie is based on a true story about Esquire journalist Tom Junod, who was assigned a story on Rogers that eventually landed on the cover of the magazine.
In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Vogel is estranged from his father and battling feelings of rejection, hatred and unforgiveness when he interviews Rogers. Soon, though, it is Rogers who is asking Vogel the questions—and it is the hard-hitting journalist who is learning about kindness and forgiveness, and being changed for the better.
It’s among the most uplifting and moving films in recent years and one of the best ones, too. Tom Hanks delivers an Oscar-worthy performance. Rhys and Watson are impressive. The film masterfully recreates the look and feel of Mister Rogers Neighborhood.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn’t a faith-based film in the vein of Overcomer or I Can Only Imagine, even though it makes clear that Fred Rogers was driven by his Christian faith. We see him kneeling beside his bed and praying for specific people, by name. (He was an ordained minister who viewed his TV show as a ministry.) His wife says he “reads Scripture.” Of course, we also see him exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, on andoff camera.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Minimum. We see a fight at a wedding. We watch someone have a heart attack and later die.
Minimum. We hear a discussion about someone “sleeping around.” A couple shares one or two brief kisses. A character exhibits cleavage.
Minimum. H– (4), OMG (2) and d–n (1). (None of the coarse language is spoken by Mister Rogers.)
Other Stuff You Might Want To Know
Two characters share a drink of alcohol. (Neither is Mister Rogers.)
Kindness can change the world: Mister Rogers occasionally was mocked, but as the movie demonstrates, his lessons on kindness and compassion resonated with multiple generations of people of every race.
Forgiveness shouldn’t wait: Sickness and death have a way of forcing people to forgive and reconcile. God, though, doesn’t want us to wait.
Fatherhood is priceless: Lloyd wants to be a better father to his child than his father was to him.
Life is a vapor: Lloyd’s father discovers what’s most important in life—but doesn’t do so until he’s at the tail end of his life. It’s “not fair,” he says.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the rare mainstream movie that promotes dozens of positive messages: kindness, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation and the importance of family, among them.
All of these, though, are grounded in Scripture. Mister Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister who viewed his television show as his ministry. Yet he also treated individual people in his life as if the camera was still rolling.
He had a child-like wonder about the world that all of us should learn. Further, he was void of scandals in a world that was increasingly scandal-plagued.
In other words, he was the same person in private that he was in public. He wasn’t perfect—as his wife says in the movie—but he exhibited Christ’s love for others in a unique and rare way.
In the war-torn, defiant world of the 1960s and 70s, he was a breath of fresh air. Today’s society could learn a lot from Mister Rogers.
1. Why do you think Mister Rogers’ TV show was so popular?
2. What lessons can we learn from Mister Rogers’ life?
3. Do you think kindness, compassion and love can change the world? Explain your answer.
4. Why is forgiveness so hard? Is there anyone you need to forgive?
5. What lessons can we learn about life from Lloyd’s father?
Entertainment rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Rated PG for some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language.