Film review: A Beautiful Day in The Neighbourhood (PG)
PUBLISHED: 10:29 14 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:29 14 May 2020
Tom Hanks’ latest sees him playing a saint with no edge in a film that grinds towards a predictable end
Directed by: Marielle Heller.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Wendy Makkena, Chris Cooper and Tammy Blanchard.
Available for digital download from May 25th. Streaming from June 8th.
Running Time: 109 mins.
Though his niceness is often held against him, the ability to play decency and goodness authentically really sets Hanks apart. His total lack of edge, in a culture that lauds edginess above all else, is something to celebrate really.
But even he can’t deal with playing a saint.
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American children’s TV institution Mr Roger’s Neighbourhood was like Michael Bentine’s Potty Time presented by Mahatma Gandhi.
There would be puppets and miniature landscapes presided over by Fred Roger (Hanks) who starts each show by coming in through the set’s front door, changing into cardigan and slippers and telling all the children how special they were just as they were.
And the truly special thing was the real Fred Roger was just as kindly and selfless as his image.
Aside from arriving barely a year after the release of the documentary about him, Will You Be My Neighbor? the film’s biggest problem is, that nobody in this country knows who he was. We have no cherished childhood memories of him, and frankly, he comes across as a bit creepy. Rogers thanks people for the slightest little thing, and is so considerate it’s almost suffocating.
Hanks is very good as Rogers, but he’s an unbearable character. Forrest Gump’s simpleton innocence was set against the horrors of the second half of the 20th century and his triumphs were cruel black comic twists of fate for everyone else. Mr Rogers though is Dr Benjamin Spock imagined as fairy godmother.
Another issue is that this film isn’t actually about Mr Rogers, as was indicated by Hanks nomination for a best-supporting actor Oscar. The focus of the film is an angry, cynical Esquire writer, Lloyd Vogel (Rhys) who is estranged from his father (Cooper) and is sent to interview Rogers.
You soon come to resent the time spent with him and his family. The drama of the piece is established early on: will Rogers passive-aggressively bully the journo into reconciling with his pop? So, if you have humanity in you, won’t you join me neighbour in siding with the journo and hoping against hope that he can hold on to his anger, refuse to express his feeling and not end up telling his dad he loves him?
Go to halfmanhalfcritic.com for a review of the Eureka release of spaghetti western, The Specialists, with Johnny Halliday.
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