Fred: Sometimes we have to ask for help, and thats okay.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a 2019 biopic directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah Harpster, based on the Esquire article "Can You Say... Hero?" by Tom Junod.
Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is an award-winning writer for Esquire who is nonplussed and annoyed when his editor assigns him to write a profile on Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), pastor and star of the hit children's series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Lloyd decides to treat the profile as an investigation to find out if Mr. Rogers is just a character for the camera, but the answer surprises him and changes his life. Chris Cooper and Susan Kelechi Watson also star as Lloyd's estranged father and wife.
Not to be confused with Won't You Be My Neighbor?, the 2018 documentary about the life of Fred Rogers.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Jerry was emotionally and physically abusive towards Lloyd, even cheating on his wife, Lloyd's mother, while she was on her deathbed. In the present when Jerry tries to apologize after taunting Lloyd at a wedding and injuring him during a fight, Lloyd understandably refuses to accept them.
- Actor Allusion: Once again, Tom Hanks is digitally inserted into stock footage of meetings with other celebrities.
- Adult Fear: Lloyd's entire childhood. His father was abusive, cheated on his dying mother, and abandoned him and his sister Lorraine. As an adult, Jerry tries to apologize but injured his son again at Lorraine's wedding, so his attempts at reconciliation come off as insincere.
- Artistic License History: The prolonged scene of Mr. Rogers attempting, and failing, to put up a tent is based on a real event from the television show's production, however unlike the movie, which is set in 1998, this attempt happened in 1975. Also unlike in the movie, where Mr. Rogers decides to leave it in as an educational experience about making mistakes, in real life Fred Rogers did just have it set up by the studio staff instead.
- Aside Glance: Before the minute of silence, Mr. Rogers seems to look right at the audience when he says he will time it.
- Audience Surrogate: Lloyd's wife tells him "Lloyd, please don't ruin my childhood."
- Based on a True Story: The very first thing after the logos is the text "Inspired by a True Story". And, yes, this is mainly inspired by a real article written for Esquire, but most of the story was fictionalized. Tom Junod became Lloyd Vogel, and was given a strained relationship with his son and his father. The only real part of the story was Old Rabbit, which was an actual stuffed animal that Junod once owned.
- Junod did praise the film for capturing his relationship with Fred Rogers pretty well.
- Bittersweet Ending: Jerry dies from cardiac stenosis, but he does eventually make amends with Lloyd just before his death, and Lloyd's article on Mr. Rogers becomes a success, ending up on the cover of Esquire.
- Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Averted. Susan's race is never brought up as being a point of struggle for herself and Lloyd. Although it is briefly touched upon, when it is mentioned that she couldn't get a cab and that people on the subway were regarding her with contempt rather than sympathy for being out so late with her infant son.
- Creator Cameo: During the minute of silence at the restaurant, Joanne Rogers (Fred's widow), David Newell (who played Mr. McFeely), Bill Isler (the former head of Family Communications, Inc., which produced the show), and Margy Whitmer (the original producer of the series) make appearances.
- Daydream Surprise: Lloyd's second visit to the WQED studio in Pittsburgh initially plays out as if the studio crew has decided to work him into the episode for the day, then gets really surreal, before revealing that Lloyd passed out on the studio set.
- Everyone Has Standards: Dorothy, Jerry's new girlfriend, has the decency to look horrified when Lloyd angrily reminds everyone in his apartment that Jerry walked out on him and Lorraine when Jerry's wife, Lloyd's mother, was dying of cancer and she screamed several times at the end.
- Five-Second Foreshadowing: During the scene where Jerry introduces Lloyd to his girlfriend, Dorothy, and subsequently gets into another argument, he angrily tells Lloyd that he'll never see him again after today. At first it seems like Jerry is simply planning to walk out of Lloyd's life again, only to get a heart attack, the implication being that he's been Secretly Dying.
- Framing Device: Significant portions of the film play out like an episode of Mr. Rogers' show, with him singing the opening and closing songs, Mr. McFeely arriving with a Speedy Delivery, and Picture Picture showing a video of how a magazine is made. In addition, most of the exterior shots are replaced by models in the style of the opening and closing credits of the series, to the point where midway through the film, the use of actual vehicles being shown in a serious moment as Lloyd runs from the hospital and flies back to Pittsburgh is genuinely jarring.
- Friend to All Children: Mr. Rogers is good with kids. He beams when they sing to him on a train.
- Happily Married: Fred and Joanne Rogers, an incredibly wholesome couple.
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: Mr. Rogers in response to Lloyd's question says lightheartedly that he doesn't consider himself a hero. This is despite the good he has done for children nationally and internationally.
- Jerkass Has a Point: While Lloyd's bitterness is hurting his health and making him act selfishly, he's right that Jerry can't make up for a lifetime of cheating on his mother and abandoning his children just by showing up when Lloyd doesn't need him.
- Logo Joke: The 1993 version of the Tristar logo is used. All of the logos' music is done on a chime-like celesta as in the show, invoking the spirit and whimsical nature of Mister Rogers.
- Manly Tears: Lloyd eventually cries when talking with Mr. Rogers about how he is a "broken" person.
- Meta Casting: Tom Hanks has a similar degree of "beloved celebrity" adored wherever he goes, coupled with the otherwise unknown cast makes it quite believable to see them walking around while Hanks draws crowds.
- Nice Guy: Fred Rogers is not just a character for television; he is nice to everyone off-camera, including the production crew, Lloyd, and strangers on the street.
- Not an Act: When given an assignment that seems to be a fluff piece, Lloyd decides to make the most of it and find out if Mr. Rogers is just playing a character for the cameras and has flaws. He is bowled over to learn that Mr. Rogers is really a Nice Guy through and through and can't break character if he tried. Lloyd even tries to draw a distinction between the person and the character, which only draws confusion from Fred.
- Not Helping Your Case: Jerry really was trying to make amends with his son. He starts the movie by getting into a fight with Lloyd at Lorraine's wedding and injuring the latter's nose.
- Parting Words Regret: Jerry suffers a heart attack as Lloyd is fighting with him and ordering him out of his home. It takes Lloyd a long time, and Mr. Rogers' words of wisdom, to even go back to the hospital and forgive his father for a lifetime of pain.
- Period Piece: The film is set in 1998.
- Photo Op with the Dog: When Lloyd first arrives to interview Mr. Rogers, he sees that he is finishing a Make-a-Wish request in which he meets a sick child.
- Playing Gertrude: Minor example. While Fred Rogers turned 70 in 1998, when the film is set, Tom Hanks was only in his early sixties at the time of filming, and also looks considerably younger than Rogers did at the time.
- Rewatch Bonus: Lloyd and his sister are initially very surprised that their estranged father Jerry even bothered to show up at her wedding, the implication that this wasn't the case the other times she's married. This, and his repeated attempts to reenter his son's life, make a lot more sense when we learn he's been suffering from heart issues for some time and knows that he's dying.
- Sacred Hospitality: Mr. Rogers and his wife Joanne take Lloyd to their home after he collapses at the studio and help him with his problems.
- Serial Spouse: Lloyd is attending his sister Lorranie's third wedding at the beginning of the movie and doesn't seem to think it will be her last, snarking that he looks forward to her weddings every year, and saying that he'll do something different for her next wedding.
- Shown Their Work: As the journalist who inspired Lloyd covered in his profile, a group of kids and parents did sing to Mr. Rogers on the train when they recognized him. Rogers regretted afterwards that he was so surprised that he didn't join in.
- Sidelong Glance Biopic: The film is less a comprehensive retelling of Fred Rogers' life and more about a person's personal experience with him.
- Silence Is Golden: During the "Minute of Silence" sequence, after Rogers begins timing it, all background noise disappears, giving the audience a chance to follow Rogers' advice to think about everyone who has loved them.
- Stepford Smiler: It's implied there actually is some inner darkness Rogers is fighting, with him often doing the same anger-combating techniques he taught Lloyd, though we never find out what it is.
- Stock Footage: When Lloyd does research on Rogers, he watches his appearances on The Arsenio Hall Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show, which utilizes actual footage of his appearances and, in Forrest Gump fashion, Rogers is replaced with Hanks as Rogers.
- The middle of the end credits concludes with actual footage of Mr. Rogers singing "You've Got to Do It".
- Sugar Apocalypse: Touched upon, as Lloyd tries to bring up how Mr. Rogers brings up shockingly dark subjects on his show, including war, divorce and similar topics. Fred didn't seem the least bit concerned, as he shares early on how his entire message is teaching children how to deal with their emotions, the "mad that I feel."
- Take That, Audience!: Specifically, those who believe the urban legend that Mr. Rogers had a dark past. At one point, Lloyd's brother-in-law asks Mr. Rogers if it's true that he was a sharpshooter, with Jerry saying he was a Navy SEAL. Mr. Rogers assures them that it is not true.
- Throw It In!: In-Universe, Mr. Rogers struggled to put up a tent in an attempt to show how to. The crew offered to do a new take with the tent already set up, but he kept the scene as-is, explaining that he felt it important to show children that adults can struggle doing things too. This is actually based on a real life event, but the movie takes several liberties, as noted above under Artistic License History.
- Took a Level in Idealism: Lloyd comes to Mr. Rogers's studio cynically treating the interview like any job. By the end of the first teaser trailer, the man's smiling and hugging Mr. Rogers with sincerity.
- Wham Shot: In the opening scene, no less. The film begins with a beat-by-beat recreation of the show's opening theme, followed by Mister Rogers opening flaps of pictures of his friends on a pictureboard. Everything is cute and harmless, until he opens a flap revealing a bruised and bloodied Lloyd, setting the surreal tone for the rest of the film.