Need a pick-me-up? A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood arrives in theaters Friday with plenty of heart and a near-perfect 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics can't say enough about Tom Hanks' turn as Presbyterian pastor Fred Rogers, who used his long-running PBS show to teach kids how to manage their deepest fears. Here, the story is framed around Rogers' friendship with journalist Tom Junod (renamed Lloyd Vogel, played by Matthew Rhys), who profiled Rogers in 1998. Four takes:
- For Chris Hewitt, "it's as if Hanks tucks a cozy blanket around the entire film, embodying the beatific warmth and kindness of Rogers so that every time he appears on screen in Beautiful Day, you feel better and more hopeful." The performance, "less an impression than a spirit summoning," is "career-peak work," Hewitt adds at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, giving the film 3.5 stars out of 4. His only complaint seems to be too much attention paid to Vogel.
- But Peter Rainer thinks director Marielle Heller was "exceedingly smart … to frame this story through the eyes of an inveterate cynic." "This is a movie about the difficult passage from dark to light and the transcendence that takes you there," and Rhys is "excellent" in the role of the journalist, Rainer writes at Christian Science Monitor. "As his encounters with Rogers deepen, we, along with Vogel, experience the healing transformation."
- "Brilliantly directed," the movie "feels like an answered prayer," writes Ann Hornaday at the Washington Post. "Balancing pathos, humor and Rogers's practice of radical Christian love and acceptance, Heller lends … a light touch and depth of feeling that play off each other in near-perfect balance," Hornaday adds, noting that viewers still have the opportunity to poke fun where appropriate.
- "It's the rare biopic that doesn't wander into predictability"—at times showing Rogers' own imperfections—though "I'm sure there are some viewers who will find all of this so sweet it makes their teeth hurt," Sara Stewart writes at the New York Post. But "I feel bad for them" since "there isn't a better [hero] to be found than Rogers," she adds. "Hanks' all-in portrayal ought to snag him an Oscar nomination, and ideally also inspire a little more kindness in all of us."
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