It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, indeed, for Toronto International Film Festival audiences who caught the world premiere of director Marielle Heller’s new film starring Tom Hanks as the beloved Mister Rogers.
Written by “Transparent” scribes Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” centers on the real-life friendship between Fred Rogers (Hanks) and journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys). The cynical writer is forced to take an assignment from Esquire to write a profile on Rogers, but the job turns out to be a surprising one as Rogers’ perspective on life — sunnily documented in Morgan Neville’s 2018 doc “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” — begins to change Vogel. The supporting cast includes Chris Cooper, Susan Kelechi Watson, Enrico Colantoni, Maryann Plunkett, and Tammy Blanchard.
From Eric Kohn’s IndieWire review: “Director Marielle Heller… excels at pulling heartstrings from sturdy foundations, injecting smart and insightful details into material that could easily default to sentimentality. While her first big studio effort lacks the edginess of ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ and ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl,’ Heller works backward by digging into the gooey material and mining for substance in surprising places.”
Below, IndieWire has rounded up first reactions following its bow at TIFF. Sony Pictures will release the film on November 22.
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Marielle Heller’s touch is unmistakable in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, which is less about Mister Rogers than about the idea of Mister Rogers, male vulnerability, and forgiveness. It’s a tearjerker, yes, but one that sneaks up on you #TIFF19
— Esther Zuckerman (@ezwrites) September 8, 2019
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is essentially a Mister Rogers episode for grownups. The man himself remains opaque; this is not a story about him but about why we need him. Touching stuff, especially from Matthew Rhys. #TIFF19
— Angie J. Han (@ajhan) September 8, 2019
So overwhelmed. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is cinematic therapy. The best film of the year. Marielle Heller finds a tender, imaginative (sometimes surrealist) way to fuse her visionary narrative with Fred Rogers’ spirit. Tom Hanks is coming for Oscar No. 3 #TIFF19 #TIFF pic.twitter.com/Zm1Sm6q8eA
— Joey Nolfi @ TIFF (@joeynolfi) September 8, 2019
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a tribute to the hard work that comes with being a good person. Marielle Heller understands the risk in bringing Fred Rogers to the screen, and manages to neither cheapen nor deify him. Matthew Rhys makes for a great scene partner with Hanks
— Kevin Klawitter @ TIFF (@KevinKlawitter) September 8, 2019
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Tom Hanks fits the red sweater like he was born in it, but Marielle Heller’s unique take on Mr. Rogers’ magnetism exceeds impersonation. A movie of heart, empathy and invention, it’s a beautiful day in the #TIFF19 ‘hood. pic.twitter.com/nqiVXGLfae
— Peter Howell (@peterhowellfilm) September 8, 2019
You knew Tom Hanks was going to be good as Fred Rogers in #ABeautifulDayInTheNeighborhood. But were you prepared for him to be THIS good?
— Sean O’Connell (@Sean_OConnell) September 8, 2019
Director Marielle Heller snd Matthew Rhys, Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers and Chris Cooper deliver something unexpected and moving— it played well at #TIFF
— Anne Thompson (@akstanwyck) September 8, 2019
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood solidifies once again why Tom Hanks is such a legend. He transforms into Fred Rogers and delivers one of the best performances of his career. Marielle Heller’s direction is superb and pays homage to the original series. #ABeautifulDayMovie pic.twitter.com/xxIOKtW8WR
— Scott Menzel @ Toronto International Film Festival (@TheOtherScottM) September 8, 2019
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Marielle Heller found a very smart way to make a film about Fred Rogers. Tom Hanks does a great job portraying him. And the movie made me think a lot about what it takes to be present for other people. #TIFF19 pic.twitter.com/IxnuWl3G4F
— Rebecca Ford (@Beccamford) September 8, 2019
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Whoever had the idea of casting Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers deserves a raise. Hanks is absolute perfection in Marielle Heller’s surprisingly hilarious, sweet and simple ode to an American icon. #TIFF
— Jordan Ruimy (@mrRuimy) September 8, 2019
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: I’m leery of stories about famous figures framed by someone else’s encounter with them, but in Heller’s charming film it makes perfect sense — Tom Hanks’ Fred Rogers is very human, but the distance lets him be a little magic as well. #tiff pic.twitter.com/yiQmcV3upQ
— Alison Willmore (@alisonwillmore) September 8, 2019