Mister Rogers Biopic Starring Tom Hanks is One of A Kind

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood hits movie screens everywhere today & the screening proved it turns strangers into the friendliest of neighbors

November 21, 2019
Mr. Rogers Movie, A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood 2019
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"I don't think I've ever gotten up from a movie feeling so serene..."



Honestly, I don't know if I could fully put it into words if I tried. A "" perhaps?  There was a certain sort of twinkle in the stars and magic in the air that only grew as time passed and inched closer to the moment that we would lay eyes on the much-anticipated biopic about our Friendly Neighbor- Mister Fred Rogers. It was the sort of event that begins with, "Once upon a time..." or, even better, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood."

T'was truly a beautiful Wednesday night in the Southside neighborhood, where droves of highly expectant Pittsburghers gathered at the cinema with iPhones galore to enjoy the Red Carpet festivities for the "It's A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," premiere screening. The movie- starring Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys, directed by Marielle Heller- was born of an unlikely friendship that began in 1998. Tom Junod, a cynical writer Esquire magazine was assigned a piece that though he would dread and resent at first, would eventually change his life. The November issue would be on "heroes," and Mr. Rogers had made the cut. The events thereafter inspired the article that not only made the front page of the magazine in '98 (a risky decision made by the then editor) but also made the headlines of magazines and newspapers across the country in 2018-19 as news of the movie spread like a familiar tune you couldn't escape.

After having seen the movie, a flame deep down in the hearts of each individual packed into those four auditoriums began to burn- a desire to have the old lessons, the peace, the very presence of throughout the world like a melody that wouldn't let go. As the credits rolled and came to a close, claps rang out-  and murmurs of, "Excellent," "That was marvelous," "How absolutely spectacular," began to whisper through the theater. There were times of laughter, times of tears and times of absolute joy and inspiration. Sitting in that seat, we all found ourselves in a state of childlike awe, once again feeling like adolescents who could just as easily soak up the messages uttered. We realized that we all had children inside of us who needed to be accepted and "liked as [we] are, exactly and precisely." We listened to Mr. Rogers to Tom Junod's character, Lloyd Vogel, and embraced the love, hug, and understanding exuding from the screen. Hanks did a marvelous job in making us forget he was playing a role. Instead, we felt carried by the secure hands of the man who told Vogel over the phone, "Do you know what the most important thing in the world is to me right now? It's talking on the phone with Lloyd Vogel." 

Mr. Rogers taught us to slow down, to be intentional- to be slow to anger, slow to speak, quick to listen and abounding in love as the Bible teaches us. Which makes perfect sense, because Mr. Rogers himself was an ordained Presbyterian minister, who, after seeing the barrage of messages thrown to audiences across America on TV, decided he wanted to step into the medium to fill not just the entertainment gap with love, purity and peace, but also the gap between the screen and the viewers. As Tom Junod wrote in his most recent article  The Atlantic, Mr. Rogers found that gap "sacred," and desired to make that space, "less profane." 

That he did.

Mr. Rogers gave us, even as adults, a space where it was okay to feel, to from the pressures and hurts of the world. 


*SPOILER ALERT*

In one alarmingly powerful moment in the movie, Rogers encourages Vogel to join him in 60 seconds of silence to think about all those that had "loved us into being." And there, in the midst of this movie- which follows the rules of a Hollywood outside of its four imaginary walls, Mr. Rogers broke the rules of cinema and gripped us for one full minute of silence- 20 of which he spent breaking that fourth wall to stare right into the camera- right into our eyes, effectively capturing our hearts. A woman beside me fell into a spell of sniffles, and I found myself gripped in place, eyes wide in shock and sheer impact. 

*END OF SPOILER*
 


Mr. Rogers encouraged us to acknowledge how we gently challenged us to express it in a way that wasn't harmful to ourselves or others. Danette Levers, a fan of Tom Hanks, attended the show and said, "It makes me want to go back and watch all the old Mister Rogers episodes and relearn them and try to apply them to my everyday life. I think we as adults could all use a little Mister Rogers." Her friend, Missy Finnell, who worked on the movie as a local Casting Associate, added, "It's not what I thought it would be, but I really liked it. Hanks] embodied Mister Rogers on and . Everybody on set believed in Mister Rogers' philosophy. It was the happiest crew I've ever been a part of."


Indeed, it was probably also one of the happiest red carpets anyone had ever been on as well. Media crews squeezed together on the tight scene to capture the geniuses behind this film, including the very lovely Mrs. Joanne Rogers herself, who was a darling ray of playful light the entire time. One line from the movie also shines like a beam from the script- Mrs. Rogers Lloyd Vogel that she isn't fond of the word "saint," because it makes the life Mr. Rogers led seem unobtainable. What we could all use, is more hope. Mr. Rogers is an example of a man we can all aspire to without the fear that he was some strange, rare occurrence we will not see for another 400 years. He was just as human as you and I- a friendly neighbor who tried his hardest to try.

Spend your weekend in the beautiful neighborhood of a theater near you.


So to my neighbor reading this, I like you as you are- exactly and precisely. Let's make the most of this beautiful day. Since we're together we might as well say, 'Would you be mine, could you be mine- won't you be my neighbor?'


We tip our hats to this legend and to the cast and crew of this incredible movie. We pay our respects to one fallen crew member, James Emswiller, 61, whose life was lost during the making of this movie. was a sound mixer on set and Emmy award winner. He will be sorely missed in the cinema community for his gentle spirit and profound work. Thank you, Mr. .



In Honor of Mister Fred Rogers- a devout man, a devoted human being, a wondrous, blessed Friendly Neighbor.

Loved and Missed.