Tom Hanks specializes in playing paternal figures, the sorts of men that make a person feel like they’re in good hands. He’s saved lives as Saving Private Ryan‘s army captain, defended the freedom of the press as a newspaper editor in The Post, and now, he’ll play the de facto dad to several entire generations of Americans.
The first trailer for Marielle Heller‘s Fred Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood has started this week off on a heartstring-tugging note, with the public’s first substantive look at a film guaranteed to put the thumbscrews to the audience’s sense of childhood nostalgia. It’s a pretty telling sign when you can feel yourself starting to mist up at what is essentially a commercial.
Hanks portrays Rogers mid-career, at which point the children’s entertainer and TV pioneer had won a nationwide following for his PBS program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Like so many other biographical scripts looking for a narrative way in, this film structures itself around the interaction between its subject and a journalist (Matthew Rhys, struggling to connect with his inner child) sent to figure out what makes them tick.
Rogers melts the cold heart of his interviewer in the same way that his work continues to disarm even the most jaded adults: with unflagging earnestness. Hanks’ performance emphasizes Rogers’ well-known reputation as a patron saint of kindness, someone willing to extend a warm hand and some comforting words to absolutely anyone in need of them.
One snippet of footage shows Hanks’ Mister Rogers embracing a child connected to an oxygen tank, which poses the question of whether there may be a point of diminishing returns with all the pathos, but this film remains a key late-year release regardless. Rolling out the trailer not 24 hours before the Toronto International Film Festival makes their first programming announcement feels like a pointed move, as if declaring the soft opening of an Oscar campaign sure to occupy the rest of the year.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood comes to cinemas in the US on 22 November, and then the UK on 6 December.
Published 22 Jul 2019
Filmmaker Morgan Neville provides a thoughtful examination of American television legend Fred Rogers.
Bel Powley shines in Marielle Heller’s refreshingly non-judgmental chronicle of teenage sexuality in ’70s San Francisco.