SPOILERS AHEAD: With the career that Tom Hanks has had, he has already proven his talents to audiences to the point that he has attained the title of “America’s Dad.” And yet, with his role as the equally iconic and beloved Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood he continues to reinforce his status as a member of Hollywood’s elite, whether or not he chooses to flaunt that status. However, because Hanks falls into this role so effortlessly, he isn’t really the takeaway from this. Rather, it is Mr. Rogers, who it turns out is a sixth cousin of his.
This year’s Oscars was not good to their “neighbor” as Hanks ended up being the sole part of the film to be nominated, despite Janelle Monae’s homage to the film during the show’s opening. But who needs their recognition when you can get it from the Opinion Editor of “The Comment.”
At the beginning, I predicted it to be structured like 2009’s Julie & Julia which equally follows the lives of famed television chef Julia Child and Julie Powell, the woman who attempted to prepare all of the dishes featured in Child’s famed Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook in tandem with her increasingly popular blog. As the movie went on, though, the differences between these two movies became blatant. I still love Julie & Julia. I love it so much I have previously asked for it to be featured on the school’s ResNet cinema even though I already have the DVD. They actually added it to my surprise, but it has since been removed. Yeah, I’m gonna ask for it again. But anyway, that movie is essentially all about the idolization of a person. With A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Mr. Rogers himself isn’t idolized. Rather, it is the ideas and behaviors he promoted. And that is exactly how he would have wanted it. This is by no means a biopic. Instead, the focus is placed on Lloyd Vogel, a journalist based off of real life journalist Tom Junod whose Esquire profile of Mr. Rogers inspired the film.
Vogel, like Junod, did not go into this profile all giddy. He saw Rogers as nothing more than a character on a children’s television show. But he soon learned that his caring nature is carried beyond the soundstage and directed towards all ages, not just the children his show is intended for. I should note that Rogers’ wide ranging reach was made apparent to me before the movie even started as I, alongside the friends who joined me, ended up being the youngest member of the audience by at least thirty years it seemed like. Like Vogel and Junod, it can be easy to scoff at the host’s message of kindness and forgiveness. On its surface, the concepts seem so simple. Well, the kindness part at least. And yet, we live in a society where it feels as though these ideas are being pushed aside now more than ever. We all have an individual if not more who was not kind to us either continuously or at a very significant moment in our lives. It can be so difficult to forgive that individual, to separate these potentially isolated actions from the person as a whole. For Vogel, it was his father who cheated on his ailing mother and abandoned his family completely following her death. Whenever Vogel tried to ask Rogers a question, Rogers would ask him a question in return. Not out of avoidance, but rather out of pure empathy. He genuinely cared about him, and continued showing this care long after the completion and publication of the article during which Vogel’s father himself had been sick and eventually passed. His actions spoke louder than his words. And while the journalist started with a hard center, over time he took what he learned from his subject and attempted to apply those teachings within his complicated life as best he could.
Leaving the theater, I felt a strong desire to follow in his footsteps, to be forgiving to those who have hurt me. Then ten minutes passed, and those resentful feelings I carry returned. Ultimately, that’s alright. The message of the film, and Mr. Rogers teachings, not preachings, was that kindness and forgiveness does not come instantly. It is a lifelong process that can come and go. You must be forgiving to yourself when you do not feel forgiving towards others. Allow things to come naturally. If you don’t start with that first part, the second part will never happen.