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  • Writer's pictureStrictly Films

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Nice and Sweet, That’s... Nice Grade: B-

Source: IMDB

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood tells a story of a married journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), whom still holds on a grudge against his father (Chris Cooper). Lloyd and his father had a confrontation during Lloyd’s brothers wedding, as a fist fight broke out. Lloyd’s boss has assigned Lloyd on an assignment to interview with kids television host Fred Rogers aka Mister Rogers (Tom Hanks). What was suppose to be a normal interview, turned out to be much deeper and personal with Vogel and Rogers. Witness a saint like Mister Rogers save Lloyd from the forces of evil known as holding grudges, as he leads him to the light of forgiveness. Last years Won’t You Be My Neighbor was my second favorite documentary of all time, it was so fantastic that I shed tears while watching it, so yes I had a solid amount of anticipation for this film. The Cinematography t’was very unique, I really enjoyed the look of this film, more so the presentation of the film. It feels exactly like an episode off of Mister Rogers, it has the ole doll house design in between scenes of the city, cars, and even a moving plane.... It was very genuine and sweet. The Score was solid as well, good soundtrack selections and a lovely composed score featuring swell piano music. The cast in this film was good, however I do have one main cast issue which I’ll get to in a minute. When I heard the announcement of Tom Hanks being casted to play Fred Rogers, I instantly had many doubts. Given the fact Tom Hanks really hasn’t put in enough effort to play somebody else other than himself for quite some time, don’t get me wrong the man is a legend and his past performances of this decade are either good or just fine... It’s just we haven’t gotten a performance, where Tom gives it his all like a Forrest Gump, Green Mile, Philadelphia etc. So knowing where Tom Hanks stands as far as his modern day acting performances go... I was worried he would butcher this role, where all you can think is, “Oh it’s Tom Hanks playing Tom Hanks again... Yawn.” Though Tom Hanks doesn’t completely nail Fred Rogers, as you can tell you’re hearing Tom Hanks’ voice, as it’s not a flawless impression of Fred Rogers... But he did a really good job with this role, as fans of Mister Rogers will be very pleased with Tom Hanks performance. It really looked like he gave it his best shot at this role, studied Mister Rogers, and did all he can to become Mister Rogers and for what it’s worth he did some really good things with this role. How he sometimes speaks, sings, smiles, facial expressions, and how he moves were almost like Mister Rogers was in real life. The film does a really nice job with Fred Rogers in this film as a supporting character, where we as an audience can be in the driver seat in this story, like the main character. It feels like Rogers is speaking to any of us, whom have dealt with this relatable issue in the present or past time. Some may get thrown off due to the fact some were going in, thinking this was his movie, but it was sweet for what it is. So here comes the main issue with the cast: I did not enjoy Matthew Rhys as Lloyd, nor did I like the character Lloyd. I just felt his performance was below mediocre, where I did not believe in his performance as whenever on screen as it felt very phony and fake. Like his opening scene with Lloyd’s wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) just felt completely awkward, as they had no chemistry whatsoever, but with Matthew it just felt like he was just reading lines on paper and was completely lost in what he was doing. In my opinion all I thought while watching his performance, is how much better it would’ve been if Edward Norton played this part... Heck he even reminds me too much of Edward Norton, only it’s worst. The American accent felt awkward and weak throughout the entirety of this film, as Matthew’s performance just didn’t work well with me. I get what the character Matthew represents and how his character has a developed arc start to finish... But when it’s Matthew alone without Fred Rogers, I can’t help to think it was either annoying to watch this character or just uninteresting. This character reminds me of any cliche atheist in a Christian film: Where he’s mean, unforgiving, and a pain in the ass, but this time around Fred Rogers plays the priest or the wake up call, that he needs God to save him. You know I’m all for it as a believer in God and everything... But what I’m not for is seeing the same character done over and over again, as this one was just obnoxious to watch/ Even when Lloyd’s character arc is completely finished in the end, the film keeps on making him a prick, even when he moved on from his grudge, the film still makes you want to get away from this character. I hope Motherless Brooklyn was good because man this film could’ve ended up a B if Edward Norton was Lloyd... If only. Lastly Chris Cooper playing Lloyd’s father t’was good, up to par with Dennis Quaid in I Can Only Imagine... Anytime I can add a Dennis Quaid line I TAKE IT! So I felt this movie was sweet and nice, however I felt underwhelmed with what I received. Now my expectations were reasonable, expected a quality B or a B+, was not expecting another Won’t You Be My Neighbor.... My grade is close with those, however I expected a little more out of this. The story itself was just fine, a solid whole hearted message, however I gotten a LifeTime Television vibe out of this film. Maybe because I’ve seen this story told a million times before, where it’s not particularly told in any new spectacular way, so as soon as it cuts to black... I just expected more out of this. Like I knew where things were going start to finish, beat for beat, shot for shot, it just feels completely familiar with any other film regarding a miserable prick needing a light in their life, to let go of a grudge and seek out for forgiveness. So the predictability kind of weakens my experience with this film, as the story was just felt too familiar, filled with tons of conventional cliches. I want to discuss the finale: Why was it extended for another minute for?! After Mister Rogers sings his concluding song to his show: Just cut to black, we didn’t need another minute of him playing the piano to conclude the film, that felt like a forced Oscar bait moment that was not needed at all. What keeps the story at float is certainly Tom Hanks performance, the character Fred Rogers, the presentation, but certainly the whole hearted message. It’s a sweet message that makes the film a nice feel good movie, that’ll make some folks feel at peace or even cry at certain parts. I also really loved that subway scene... Very very cute and heart warming, perfect for the holiday season. For me it didn’t wow’d me to the slightest, but I still thought it was... Nice. Overall, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was a fairly decent film. I recommend this film, I wouldn’t rush to see it but it’s nice for kids with parents or grand parents to watch with, they’ll think it’s wonderful. Well Mister Rogers: Cinema has paid tribute to you respectfully yet again, not close to Won’t You Be My Neighbor, but I’m sure you would be proud of what they done for you either way. -Mitch Smietana

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