sentiment over depth
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood review by PD
Mmm - I tried very hard to like this one - one of those that attempts to deal with some serious themes (loss, grief, desire for familial connection etc) by being self-consciously 'charming', but for me I'm afraid pretty much everything, whether script, or production, or acting, all fell a bit flat. The self-mocking styling of the film (a promising construct) stands awkwardly, separately, from the dialogue, which is realistic by comparison, but this, which includes an abundance of soap-opera style cliche, only serves to distract the audience from what's going on rather than reinforce any emotive power the film might have (although to be fair there are some very good moments en route when the syrupy strings get put away and the characters engage with their respective pasts). Meanwhile, the performances just seem to lack depth and nuance to me, and add to all this an American-style saturation of sentiment throughout, I'm coming away thinking this one ends up not saying very much, sadly.
6 out of 7 members found this review helpful.
Wet, sloppy and sentimental
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood review by PW
I think only the USA could produce a film so wet, sloppy and sentimental as this.
The only people I can imagine liking this are Infant school age children, and the very old who have become extremely sentimental. Or maybe perhaps somebody who has been infantilised by too much bad television.
I got his film largely because I like Tom Hanks, but the character he played was so wet, sloppy and condesending with a silly little voice, that after half an hour I would have liked to have seen him stuffed and mounted! The "plot" was totally simplistic and predictable.
6 out of 9 members found this review helpful.
An interesting, but unsuccessful, portrait of a US icon
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood review by JB
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood tackles US children's entertainment icon Mr Rogers, whose sensibility could not be more spectacularly unBritish.
Frank Rogers perpetrates an aggressive kindness (a phrase Tom Hanks, who plays him here, has mentioned in interviews). Rogers talks on his TV show about expressing and talking about feelings, and almost paradoxically locks in on whoever he speaks with, with laser like focus. That attitude is itself interrogated in detail by Lloyd (Matthew Rhys), a reporter from Esquire magazine - a fictional character for the purposes of this movie. Lloyd is sent to Pittsburgh to write just a 400 'puff piece' on Rogers which precipitates an unravelling of Lloyd's own attitudes towards kindness, family, relationships and love.
I'm not convinced this movie finds a way to dramatise the unique Mr Rogers for anyone unfamiliar with him, but it gives it an interesting try. To capture that weird mixture of psychological insight and the childlike that Rogers portrays, there are various movie-within-a-movie moments: from the opening titles with its arts and crafts mockup of a cityscape, to a sequence where Lloyd finds himself shrunk down as a puppet in the set of the TV show. It's all a bit Michel Gondry, just not as consistently used or developed as something like Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. That's all juxtaposed with almost melodramatic sequences of father-son conflict (between Rhys and an excellent Chris Cooper) and the trials of becoming new parents (between Rhys and an underused Susan Kelechi Watson as his wife, Andrea).
I'd have preferred a more gutsy commitment to the movie-within-the-movie moments and less of the melodrama, which is pretty ordinary and does suck the movie down into a beige schmaltz. Those sequences only work as well as they do because of the performances. Tom Hanks is excellent and Matthew Rhys is always very watchable.
Maybe it's because I'm too British (although I do have a soft spot for a romcom), but I found A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood succumbs to the worst excesses of Mr Rogers without lifting the lid enough on his contradictions.
5 out of 6 members found this review helpful.
Is it OK to feel bad?
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood review by mc
Mr Rogers is a simple man. He likes rules. He lives by them. And Mr Rogers is a very successful man. He is *loved*. He is loved by people who loved their childhood. By the by; I did not love my childhood.
One of Mr Rogers rules is, “everyone was a child once”, so let’s start there.
I’d never heard of Mr Rogers before seeing the film in spite of being steeped in US culture, like most of us. But, in the UK we had an equivalent in ‘Play School’, and ‘Play Away’. Like the generation who grew up with Mr Rogers in the US, we too grew up with Television. Which were you, a ‘Play School’ kid or a ‘Play Away’ kid, or perhaps neither?
In some ways I was much more ‘Play Away’. I can still picture the twinkle in Brian Cant's eye, and I surprised my friends 30 years later by
knowing all the lyrics to the theme song. (You can give it a great jazz groove!). In retrospect, I think I kind of exaggerated my appreciation as something ‘cool’. I’m not sure love is really the word but in my youth it was books and 'Dr Who' that offered me genuine escape; they are certainly my strongest memories. I don’t remember much else about Play Away.
I liked the village models in the film. But Mr Rogers, with his hand puppets, is everything that was alien to me about ‘Big Ted’ and
the round window, from 'Play School'. Unfortunately, Tom Hanks as Mr Rogers strays for me over the line into Peewee Herman territory. He is weird. He likes repetition the way autistic people are very good with repetition. Indeed Mr Rogers is good with autistic children. Tom Hanks may be doing his best with the real-life character but he is being given no room to manoeuvre, by either the true life story or the movie.
Ostensibly based on the essay "Can you say... hero?" written by an Esquire journalist, the story focuses on the relationship of the grown up journalist with his father. But in telling the true life story it strays freely into supernatural territory. Although the journalist is not terribly sympathetic – you’re supposed to relate to his flaws, I think – the film relies on bullying him rather than persuasion. At one point, he’s shrunk to a tiny size and forced to appear in the show. It is meant to be his redemption, but coercion is still only coercion.
As a result the film is colder than it is warm and left me wishing I had read the original essay instead.
In the end I thought it was a film made by a committee rather than by a filmmaker. It is a 'feel bad' movie - one of those that leaves you disturbed and slightly depressed without quite knowing why.
But hey, it's ok to feel bad, right?
0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.