Try A Little Tenderness (Film Thoughts: A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood)

beautiful_poster1_1There are movies that make you cry, and there are some that make you feel good. ‘ A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood’ made me feel a lot of things – it made me miss my father, it made me want to show kindness and be a better person. Last year one of my favorite movies was ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me,’ because it touched me immensely, and Marielle Heller, who directed both that and this film, has done it again. (She is now one of my favorite modern filmmakers)  The emotions in ‘A Beautiful…’ are expressed subtly, but their effects will blunt you.

Like probably everyone else, I thought this was a Mr. Rogers biopic. But of course, why do we need that when we already have last year’s documentary ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor? This film is based on Tom Junod’s write up on Esquire Magazine, where he was ‘forced’ to feature Mr. Rogers, and how that experience enlightened his life. Well, ‘enlightened’ is probably a weak way of putting it. Mr. Rogers changed his life. In the film, the character’s name has been changed to Lloyd Vogel, and the experience made him a lot less broken. I thought Matthew Rhys was fantastic here – it’s a quiet but resonant performance, one of those wherein by the end of the film, you see an arc of what the character has gone through. And of course, the heart and soul of the piece is Tom Hank’s performance. He becomes Mr. Rogers before our eyes, with kindness and heart emanating from his pore from the very minute he shows up on screen. I think at this point, like Streep, Hanks has become a living legend, and his performance here is master class in fine acting.

We are all broken in some ways – no one emerges anywhere intact and untouched. But it is these imperfections that give us texture. This film celebrates all that, and finds ways for us to mend all that’s broken. After seeing the film, I got a incandescent sense of tristesse, thinking of all the ways my parents made me the person I am today. I am happy with how I turned out, because I have no other choice but to be.


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