I went into the movie theater Saturday night to see a movie I’ve been excited about for months, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” with certain expectations.
I felt reasonably certain I’d like it, since it was about Mister Rogers and starred Tom Hanks. I thought it’d be mostly lighthearted, it would be acted well, and I thought it would be focused on Hanks as Rogers, a perfect match of actor and subject.
Well, I was wrong about almost all of my preconceptions. This was a fabulous film, but it was NOT all about Fred Rogers, and his story.
It was really about the people in Rogers’ orbit, and how his personal touch, warmth and overall humanity impacted so many.
The movie is based on real-life events, with Rogers and writer Tom Junod the real-life duo here.
Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a cynical, world-weary journalist assigned to do what he thinks is a simple, almost beneath-him assignment: Write 400 words about Mister Rogers for an Esquire issue about heroes.
For a man who does long, thorough, critical investigative pieces, talking to a dude who performs with puppets, for children, would be a walk in the park.
But Vogel is a troubled guy, with a long-standing, cold relationship with his dad, Jerry (played wonderfully by Chris Cooper, who I’ve loved since “American Beauty.”) Vogel has also just become a father himself for the first time, and his patient wife (the very beautiful and very talented Susan Kelechi Watson from “This is Us”) is excited he’ll get to talk to Mister Rogers and perhaps have a reconciliation with his own dad.
And so the movie is really about Lloyd’s journey, more so than about Fred Rogers. And with lesser actors, it might have felt like a cheat, not getting to see the film through Rogers’ eyes. But Rhys is fantastic as always, giving Lloyd depth, and the movie itself goes a lot deeper than I thought it would, into human relationships, forgiveness, and how no man, even Mister Rogers, is a saint.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is warm, sometimes witty, and yeah, a little bit slow at times. But Hanks is terrific, giving Rogers shape and showing him to be a TV perfectionist, as well as someone who always seems to know the right thing to say.
It’s a very, very good movie, that like I said goes a lot deeper into emotions and human behavior than I expected.
Fred Rogers may not have been an actual saint, but he did change and help millions of lives. And that should be celebrated, always.
**Next up, this was by far the best thing that happened in sports this weekend. Saturday was the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, in Newtown, Conn.
This year the anniversary was also the date of the Connecticut state football Class LL championship game, between Newtown and Darien.
The score was tied at 7, there were a few seconds left, and Newtown QB Jack Street launched a pass downfield that wide receiver Riley Ward hauled in for a game-winning touchdown.
It was perfect, and it gave me chills. Many of these kids
**And finally today, a look at the NFL as we come down the home stretch of games, and after today I’m sad to report that most playoff spots are pretty well locked up, and there won’t be much drama the final two weeks.
But of course, I’m likely to be wrong, as most people usually are about the NFL.
— Most shocking thing that happened Sunday? No, not the Raiders collapsing, that happens all the time.
It’s the team across the Bay, the San Francisco 49ers, who have looked like the best team in the NFL most of the year, completely laying an egg and getting stunned by the woeful Atlanta Falcons, 29-22, after the Falcons scored a go-ahead touchdown with just two seconds remaining.
Again, do not bet on the NFL, people.
— In what likely was his final home game as a New York Giants starter, Eli Manning led his team to a victory over the putrid Miami Dolphins, and it actually was a sweet moment.
Eli hasn’t played most of the year, and quite honestly he’s stunk for most of the past five seasons when he was playing. But he is and always will be a Giants icon because of two incredible playoff runs that resulted in Super Bowl wins.
There is talk in New York that Manning is a Hall of Famer, and frankly I think that’s nuts. He was never an elite QB, I’m sorry but he wasn’t.
Still, it was nice that he got to go out on a high note, because he did give Giants fans two amazing memories (not that this Jets fan is bitter, nope, not at all, not one bit.)
— The Broncos and Chiefs got to play a snow game Sunday. Man, football in the snow is so much fun.
— Deshaun Watson, I’ve said it before, is so much fun to watch. He led the Texans over the Titans Sunday and I watched a good chunk of this game, and at least four times Watson scrambled out of danger to make plays that he had no business making. I just love this guy.
— The Eagles and Cowboys, the two least bad teams in the NFC East, both won Sunday to get their seventh victory of the year, and they play each other next week so someone will have to win. This assures us that a 7-9 team won’t get to host a playoff game. Now, only an 8-8 team will host possibly a 12 or 13 win team. One of the most asinine rules in the NFL, that a division winner must host, no matter how much worse its record is.
— The Browns. Oh, the Browns. With their playoff hopes still kinda alive, they went and got blown out