I think when anyone saw the trailer for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood that people knew what they may have been getting, what they were in for and probably shed a tear just on that. You have a two-time Oscar winner in Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips) playing Fred Rogers, one of the more influential figures in child development in the latter half of the 20th century? Hell yeah it was going to be emotional.
Based on an 1998 Esquire article on Rogers by Tom Junod, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil) adapted a screenplay which Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) directed. In the film, Junod is Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys, The Americans), who is also an Esquire writer whose reputation proceeds him professionally; nobody wants to talk to him. Personally he is trying to reconcile frayed emotions with his Dad (Chris Cooper, August: Osage County) while raising a baby with Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson, This is Us). Lloyd scoffs at the interview initially but soon finds his feelings changing the more he spends time with and around Rogers.
What A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood manages to do well is allow Lloyd to serve as a mirror to the viewer on what their current sensibilities are, and how Hanks' work as Rogers allows it to absorb in and translate to you however your state of mind may be. You may not be Lloyd at this particular moment (as it turns out my current situation mirrored it a little bit), but how Rogers handles someone's sadness, or their cynicism, by allowing it in and telling someone it's OK speaks volumes. IA Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not a pure Mr. Rogers biopic, but it is a film about what made so many people love and respect him, which is something a pure biopic could not have achieved.
Hanks' performance as Rogers is also superb. Everyone saw him nail the opening song in the trailer, but it goes beyond that. He handles the small stuff on Rogers so well, like this transitions on set to Picture Picture or to one of his guests, or even when he works the puppets, that it is not an impression so much as it's an inhabiting of Fred Rogers. The subtle stuff onset is great, just as the scenes with Lloyd, when he quietly matches Lloyd's emotional lows on the opposite end with acceptance. It's one of Hanks' better turns.
Whether they be fans, the production team or writers who have said that the film is about acceptance (and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood gives us a whole bunch of that), I think it is just as much a movie about being kind. For that, it is just as if not more affecting as those about goodness and understanding. With a dedicated and talented ensemble the film delivers on the promises made in its two and a half minute preview that so many people enjoyed.The Blu-ray:
The film starts off in 4x3 like the show used to do and bounces back and forth between that and 1.85:1 widescreen which looks excellent. Colors are reproduced accurately without saturation issues and it really shows off well in the show scenes with lighting overhead, sets and whatnot. The New York and Pittsburgh exteriors are natural but are not too sharp, and there were not any noticeable or prolonged effects to the image. Sony did a nice job with this one.The Sound:
With the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track, you get quietly effective sound. Whether it's the music at the beginning of the film to more dynamic moments like the wedding fight or to a larger extent the subway sequence, the soundtrack is balanced and immersive. The former really stands out in dialogue where there are a few quieter moments that are punctuated by the way Rogers spoke, with tender intonation coming through during the film, like the moment when he talks to Lloyd's Dad Jerry. Pretty good to listen to.Extras:
There are a few good extras here, starting with a commentary by Heller and cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes. The two are pretty jovial through the track as they share their thoughts on acquiring some of the equipment for the film, like using the cameras that were used for the show, how their approached the story, and the approach to certain scenes in the film. Cast performances (and hotel bedbugs) are recalled, and thoughts on Rogers and some of the real-life scenes that translated over into the film. It is an active track that was better than I expected. Next are eight deleted/extended scenes (16:45) which has more of Rhys watching Rogers footage, but you can see why it was excised. A blooper reel (1:38) features Hanks against a sweater zipper, which is explained further in "Everyone Makes Mistakes" (2:42), the latter of which features Daniel Tiger. Tom Hanks on Fred Rogers (10:29) is a look at the figure by the actor, and his draw to this story, after having rebuffed it for so long. "The People That Make a Neighborhood" (15:23) is the making of look at the feature, which Hanks introduced in (pseudo) character, which examines the apprehension on doing a Mr. Rogers film, and the cast on Heller and on one another, and the roles they play in the film. Shooting in the same sets and locations as Rogers locations is recounted, and what they want people to take away from the film, to wrap a bow on a nice piece. "Dreaming Big, Building Small" (8:37) examines the miniatures that were used in the film, how they were translated into 2019 storytelling, and their use in the film. The puppets and their creation is also given some attention.Final Thoughts:
Even when you know that A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood comes in with a fair amount of emotional cheese, you still admire and love the secondary and tertiary waves of polish the film has in its delivery. If you cried even a little during the trailer, you are going to cry during the film, but in a good way. Technically, the disc is pretty darned good and the bonus material was a lot more entertaining and informative than I was expecting. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood will put you in a good mood as so many got from Fred Rogers for so many years.