A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
|A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Marielle Heller|
|Based on||"Can You Say ... Hero?"|
by Tom Junod
|Music by||Nate Heller|
|Cinematography||Jody Lee Lipes|
|Edited by||Anne McCabe|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$66.7 million|
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a 2019 American biographical drama film directed by Marielle Heller and written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, inspired by the 1998 article "Can You Say ... Hero?" by Tom Junod, published in Esquire. The film stars Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Chris Cooper. It depicts Lloyd Vogel (Rhys), a journalist for Esquire who is assigned to profile beloved television icon Fred Rogers (Hanks).
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019, and was theatrically released in the United States on November 22, 2019, by Sony Pictures Releasing. It received praise from critics for Hanks' and Rhys' performances, Heller's direction, and the heart-warming messages, and grossed $66.7 million worldwide. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was chosen by Time magazine as one of the ten best films of the year. For his performance, Hanks was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Critics' Choice, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and BAFTA Awards, among others.
In 1998, Lloyd Vogel, an award-winning but cynical Esquire journalist, attends his sister Lorraine's wedding, along with his wife, Andrea, and their newborn son, Gavin. During the reception, Lloyd starts a fistfight (and injures his nose) with his estranged father, Jerry, over memories of Lloyd's mother, whom Jerry abandoned. The next day, Lloyd's editor assigns him to interview Fred Rogers for a 400-word article about heroes, as each of the other potential heroes turned down chances to be interviewed by him. Lloyd travels to the WQED studio in Pittsburgh to interview Rogers. During the interview, Rogers is dismissive of his fame and displays concern for Lloyd's nose injury, prompting a discussion in which Lloyd relates to Rogers the issue of his relationship with his father, whose apology and attempt at reconciliation Lloyd has rebuffed.
Determined to expose Rogers' friendly persona as an act, Lloyd watches several episodes of Rogers' show but is unable to discern anything. Lloyd interviews Rogers again when he visits New York. During the interview, Rogers dodges Lloyd's questions and reminisces about raising his two sons. Fred takes out his puppets and asks Lloyd about his childhood rabbit stuffed animal and his father, provoking Lloyd into ending the interview. Lloyd arrives home to find Jerry and his girlfriend Dorothy there talking with Andrea. Lloyd berates Jerry for cheating on his mother Lila, while she was dying of cancer. He orders him to leave, but Jerry suffers a heart attack and is transported to the hospital. Lloyd refuses to remain overnight at the hospital with the rest of the family and returns to Pittsburgh to see Rogers. Exhausted, Lloyd collapses on the set of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and dreams about his repressed childhood trauma. In his dream, he stumbles into an episode of Rogers' show about hospitals, finding himself wearing rabbit ears and shrunken to the size of Daniel Striped Tiger and King Friday XIII, while Rogers and Andrea tower over him. He visits Lila, who is dying and urges him to release his anger.
Rogers and his wife, Joanne, bring Lloyd to their home to recuperate. Lloyd and Rogers later go to a restaurant, where Rogers asks Lloyd to spend one minute thinking about the people who "loved him into being," and encourages him to forgive Jerry. Lloyd apologizes to Andrea for leaving her and Gavin at the hospital and visits Jerry and Dorothy at their home. He learns that Jerry is dying of cardiac stenosis, the reason Jerry attempted to reconnect with Lloyd. Lloyd forgives Jerry, promises to be a better father to Gavin, and writes an article about Rogers' impact on his life. Lorraine, her husband Todd, and Rogers visit Jerry. Rogers asks Jerry to pray for him before he departs. Jerry dies shortly after Rogers' visit and Lloyd's 10,000-word article, titled "Can You Say ... Hero?" is published as Esquire's cover story.
At his studio, Rogers films the final take of an episode of his show before playing the piano to signify the end of another day of production.
- Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers:
The creator and host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. To prepare for his role, Hanks visited the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania for research in the Fred Rogers Archives and also watched Won't You Be My Neighbor?, a 2018 documentary film. At the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, Hanks recalled watching "hundreds of hours" of footage of Rogers on set and behind the scenes in order to get into character. Director Marielle Heller noted that Rogers "doesn't have the dynamic nature you need for a protagonist for a movie" and considered him "the antagonist [...] who comes into someone's life and flips it upside down through his philosophy and the way he lived his life".
- Matthew Rhys as Lloyd Vogel:
A jaded journalist who is assigned to profile Rogers for the magazine Esquire. Lloyd is based loosely on journalist Tom Junod, whose encounter with Rogers was adapted into the film. Heller described Lloyd as the viewer's "entry point into Fred's teachings" and expressed hope that Lloyd's character development and growth as a new father would compel viewers to reflect upon themselves.
- Susan Kelechi Watson as Andrea Vogel:
A public attorney, Lloyd's wife, and a fan of Rogers' show. Watson, herself a fan of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, described her character as a "career woman" who faces unique challenges of patience and adaptation as the mother of a newborn.
- Chris Cooper as Jerry Vogel:
Lloyd's estranged father and a philanderer who cheated on his wife Lila and abandoned Lloyd and Lorraine when they were children. In a press interview for the film, Cooper described his character as "multidimensional" and compared filming a scene with Hanks to seeing the "eyes of God".
- Maryann Plunkett as Joanne Rogers:
Fred's wife. Plunkett met with Joanne Rogers to prepare for the role.
- Enrico Colantoni as Bill Isler:
The President & CEO of Family Communications. In a radio interview, Colantoni said he became friends with the real Bill Isler while filming and described his character as having been "so important to Fred".
- Wendy Makkena as Dorothy:
Jerry's second wife. Makkena described her character as part of Vogel's "dysfunctional, complicated family".
- Tammy Blanchard as Lorraine: Lloyd's sister and Todd's wife.
- Noah Harpster as Todd: Lorraine's husband and Lloyd's brother-in-law.
- Christine Lahti as Ellen: Lloyd's editor.
Additional cast members include Carmen Cusack as Margy, a producer of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood; Jessica Hecht as Lila Vogel, Lloyd's mother and Jerry's ex-wife; Maddie Corman as Betty Aberlin, an actress starring as Lady Aberlin on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood; Daniel Krell as David Newell, an actor starring as Mr. McFeely; and Jordan, Naomi, and Zoey Harsh as Gavin Vogel, Lloyd's son.
Notable cameos in the film include Rogers' wife Joanne, Mr. McFeely actor David Newell, Family Communications head Bill Isler, and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood producer Margy Whitmer who appear as customers in a restaurant that Rogers and Lloyd meet in. Arsenio Hall and Oprah Winfrey make uncredited appearances in archive footage of talk shows that Lloyd watches in the film, and Fred Rogers appears in archive footage of his show during the ending credits, singing the song "You've Got to Do It".
On January 29, 2018, it was announced that Sony's TriStar Pictures had bought the worldwide distribution rights to the film You Are My Friend, a biographical film based on a 1998 Esquire magazine article about television personality Fred Rogers, who would be played by Tom Hanks. The film's script by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster appeared among the 2013 Black List of best unproduced screenplays and it would be directed by Marielle Heller, while producers would be Big Beach's Marc Turtletaub and Peter Saraf along with Youree Henley.
In July 2018, Matthew Rhys joined the cast of the film to play the journalist Lloyd Vogel, with production set to start in September 2018. In August 2018, Chris Cooper was added to the cast to play Vogel's father, and in September, Susan Kelechi Watson was added. In October 2018, Enrico Colantoni, Maryann Plunkett, Tammy Blanchard, Wendy Makkena, Sakina Jaffrey, Carmen Cusack, Harpster and Maddie Corman joined the cast of the film. In 2018, Nate Heller was chosen to score the film.
Principal photography on the film began on September 10, 2018 in Pittsburgh, with several sets converted into New York City. Filming also took place in Fred Rogers Studio at WQED (TV) where the late television host recorded Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. The crew consulted with original crew members from Rogers' television series and also brought in the same broadcast cameras and monitors used in the original production. The film received tax credits of approximately $9.5 million against a production budget of $45 million for filming in Pittsburgh. Production wrapped on November 9, 2018.
On October 12, 2018, sound mixer James Emswiller had a heart attack and fell from a second-story balcony. He was taken to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Mercy, where he was pronounced dead. The film title was announced on December 27, 2018.
The trailer for the film was released on July 22, 2019.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019. The film was originally going to be released on October 18, 2019, by Sony Pictures Releasing, but in May 2018 was pushed back a month to November 22, 2019.
As of February 19, 2020[update], A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood has grossed $61.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $5.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $66.7 million, against a production budget of $25 million.
In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Frozen 2 and 21 Bridges, and was projected to gross around $15 million from 3,231 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $4.5 million on its first day, including $900,000 from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $13.3 million, finishing third at the box office. The film fell just 11% in its second weekend, making $11.8 million and finishing fifth, and remained in fifth place the following weekend with $5.2 million.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 95% based on 277 reviews, with an average rating of 8.18/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Much like the beloved TV personality that inspired it, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood offers a powerfully affecting message about acceptance and understanding." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average four out of five stars, with 66% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Steve Pond of TheWrap wrote: "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood finds a gentle state of grace and shows the courage and smarts to stay in that zone, never rushing things or playing for drama ... But just as Mr. Rogers used his show to talk about big issues with children in a tone that was softer and more halting than you'd expect given the subject matter, so does Heller stick to understatement in a way that threatens to become dull or sappy but never does." Armond White of National Review was more critical: "Heller and screenwriters Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster don't show enough faith in Rogers' remedies—and not enough interest in their religious origins. In short, the movie seems wary of faith (it briefly mentions that Rogers was an ordained minister) and settles for secular sentimentality to account for his sensibility and behavior. This not only weakens the film, but it also hobbles Hanks's characterization." Benjamin Lee of The Guardian wrote: "It's a given that Hanks will nab at least a best supporting actor nomination but it would be all too easy to forget his co-star. The cynic-becomes-a-believer arc is age old but it unfolds here without cliche thanks to an emotionally intelligent script from Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue, but mainly because of a marvelous, prickly turn from Rhys."
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