We were pretty confident that Tom Hanks was going to be convincing as Fred Rogers, iconic television personality, in the upcoming drama A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. From the promotional image of Hanks in the recognizable red sweater to the affecting trailer (shared below), it just looked like Hanks was the right person to cast as the host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
And yet, we weren’t prepared for how great Hanks is in the role. It’s a total transformation, a revival of the late Fred Rogers, and a conduit back in time to our childhood, where we frequently visited the Pittsburgh-based “neighborhood” of this gentle man.
For a performer like Hanks, who has so many incredible roles on his resume, it’s tough to say which one is truly his best. But we can say, with confidence, that Tom Hanks is the perfect person to bring Fred Rogers to life, and the movie is better every single moment he is on screen.
The movie’s not exactly about him, though. Based on an actual Esquire magazine article, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD explains how a series of interviews with Rogers healed the wounded spirit of jaded, cynical journalist Lloyd Vogel, played by Matthew Rhys. Rhys’ character also has dad issues, allowing the actor to trade scene with the wonderful Chris Cooper as these estranged family members figure out how to reconcile.
But once Fred Rogers meets Lloyd Vogel, the healing project is underway, and Hanks relishes the opportunity to live in the warm, comforting and positive embrace that the television personality embodies. We like to assume that Tom Hanks is an inherently nice guy, and he doubles down on the sentimental emotion to find Fred Rogers in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. And it works! It really, really works.
Will it work enough for the Academy? Mind you, we have a long way to go on this journey that is the 2019 Oscar® season, and the Toronto International Film Festival is but a major step at the start of the trip. But if we had to gamble on the Oscar odds of this movie, we’d probably wager that Hanks has an incredible shot at landing a nomination. Now, would that be for the Best Actor or Supporting category? Time will tell.
Directed by Marielle Heller, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD opens in AMC theatres on November 22.