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Review | A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks is a true hero in the shoes of Fred Rogers

We are used to seeing books, series and even movies that show us how to deal with unpleasant people and difficult times. But the new production of Sony Pictures manages to extract the exquisite from human goodness. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, a children's program created by Fred Rogers in the 1960s becomes the backdrop for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

The film takes place in 1998, when the investigative journalist Tom Junod, which has another name in the plot - Lloyd Vogel -, somewhat arrogant and arrogant receives the difficult task of interviewing Fred Rogers for the profile of the Magazine Esquire. Resistance at first did not work ... It was a true transformation of a man traumatized in the past and who managed to be someone better. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a touching, inspiring, simple and enjoyable film. It is not by chance that it was released in the USA during Thanksgiving week. It is a production to be attended by the family. The sweetness and gentleness with which we see Fred Rogers act is impressive. It shouldn't be, because they are basic principles that every human being should have.

The feature begins with a miniature world (we remember the famous Sesame Street) and with a very practical and customary opening, well known to the American public, Tom Hanks gives life to the nationally known children's presenter, the aforementioned Mr. Rogers, who begins by telling a story about a saddened friend with unhealed wounds in his usual setting, giving the impression that he is really talking to the public, because all the time in which he is playing, the actor keeps his eyes directly on viewers.

With a smile full of teeth, calm manners and a slow speech that does not yield to the speed that television demands, Fred did not need cartoons, audiences or elaborate audiovisual effects, as he recognized the complex and thinking being that a child can be , driving with sensitivity and sweetness, while being cordial. He was not a presenter who liked sensationalism or melodrama.

In one of the scenes, in the first 20 minutes, just when Lloyd arrives at the studio, he witnesses Fred talking to a little boy who should have some kind of illness that requires the use of a nasal cannula and an oxygen balloon and at first he looks like a difficult boy and was with a toy sword. The mother asks him if he wants to hug Mr. Rogers and he shakes his head in negative, when Rogers bends down and says something to him that makes him change his mind, then Fred takes a picture of the little boy and his family to show to his wife, Joanne.

“Ah, I knew that whenever you see a little boy carrying something like that, it means that he wants to show people that he is strong on the outside. I just wanted him to know that he was strong on the inside too. ” And that's what I told him. I said, 'You are strong inside too', maybe it was something he needed to hear. "

 

The film tries to portray the personality of Fred Rogers, but does not focus only on that. It highlights the transformation of Lloyd Vogel who is a man with very visible internal wounds in the construction of his personality and who, over time, hides behind an armor that affects not only his personal life but also his professional life. He always prioritizes his work and leaves his family aside.

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Lloyd and Fred | Image: Sony Pictures

Lloyd has just had a child with Andrea and they are living a somewhat complicated relationship, giving the plot a chance to address machismo and gender equality without having to explain them, as we see that Andrea has left her job to look after her son while he continues to work. This is the type of script and direction that very well reconciled conveys to the public an air of simplicity and that talks to the viewer as equals, without labeling or without treating us as if we are ignorant that we need to understand a moral.

Hanks takes on the more serene version of Mr. Rogers who in the splendor of his career, charisma, sympathy, simplicity, sweetness and kindness, were able to transform the lives of everyone who directly or indirectly was around him with the legitimate Christian care taught in Bible. 

Each approach between Lloyd and Fred is a new display of affection. A simple conversation like that in that lunch at the restaurant where they stopped for 1 minute or that scene in which Lloyd passes out and finds himself in the castle with Lady Aberlin and puppet Daniel singing a song or even on the visit that Fred makes Lloyd and his family, after the profile was published, are unimaginable situations that could happen and have happened. Lloyd is the incarnation of sadness with a downcast look and dejected shoulders who cannot forgive his father and over time he manages to create a connection and can understand who Rogers really is. 

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The profile written by Tom Junod was so good that it was the cover of the 1998 edition | Image: Reproduction

Of course, within an hour and forty-seven minutes, we couldn't get a sense of who Fred Rogers was. But the beautiful performance of the protagonist, who has several successful roles in the curriculum, together with interaction with Matthew Rhys, delivers a plot without any defects. Hanks incarnates with sweetness and gentleness, which confuses us, we have the impression that he and his character are the same person, not only in appearance, but in manner. The preparation that Hanks had was essential for the construction of his persona. Rhys impresses by living the real Junod. His care was crucial to experience the journalist who, behind all bitterness, managed to get the best out of his interviewee.

The combination of the well-constructed script with the direction of Marielle Heller can convey who this hero really was. Live photography accompanies the emotions of the characters, packing the saddest feelings and even bitterness, the color palette is cold and the lighting is more bluish, entering in conjunction with the conversation of the actors with the audience, the audiovisual resources help to story to be told and from there, the feelings and emotion appear to the viewer, making it almost impossible to leave the cinema without being moved, transformed.

The songs are a separate attribute. It is not a musical, but each song joins closely to each scene and is just as important as the other visual elements, transforming the film into a true show of professionalism and the joint work of a production committed to delivering the best result. The artistic visual construction is impeccable. Whenever it is necessary to portray the houses, the city or the traffic, he uses cities in miniature, giving the impression that the story takes place inside the city in miniature, as if it were Fred Rogers' own “Sesame Street”.

It is not the first time that Rogers's life has been shown in an audiovisual production, the documentary Won´t you be my neighbor?, from 2018, shows more clearly and intensely this man who was part of several generations on American TV. In his programs, Fred sought to incorporate difficult themes from which most productions of the genre would flee in a panic. In short, the presenter was an example of empathy.

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Fred Rogers addressing the issue of racial segregation in the USA in one of the programs | Image: Reproduction

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood it has all the attributes that make up a good movie. The feature film, directed by Marielle Heller, has a taste of wanting more, giving a feeling of satisfaction, giving the viewer the chance to look with different eyes at the reality to which we are inserted. The profile written by Junod it was undoubtedly one of the best jobs he's ever done, showing the other side of the coin in a way that only a journalist can do.

Thunder Wave note
With direction and script well tied, Um Longo dia na Vizinhança is a production that captivates from beginning to end.

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