Treacly biopics are a dime a dozen – throw a shoe, and you’ll hit at least one Oscar-bait tale of triumph over adversity, with a famous actor putting on some funny teeth and offering an easily-digestible account of That Thing You Like. If the first trailer of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is any indicator, Marielle Heller‘s biopic on the life of acclaimed children’s entertainer Fred Rogers will follow a lot of those same motions. But you know what? I don’t care; it’s the nicest man on television being played by the nicest man in show business (Tom Hanks), so I’m probably going to love it.
Loosely based on journalist Tom Junod’s Esquire profile of Mr. Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood follows Junod (played by The Americans‘ Matthew Rhys) as he follows Rogers around and dives deep into his motivation for helping children. “Please don’t ruin my childhood,” his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) warns him; it’s a sentiment any of us who’ve been disappointed by our heroes have echoed.
As if there was any doubt, Hanks looks perfect for Rogers, capturing the earnest smile and quiet, clipped mannerisms of the acclaimed childrens’ show host. We see him nail that “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” song Rogers sang at the beginning of each episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, which is just a delight. (Speaking of which, this ought to make a fine double feature with the excellent Rogers doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Watch the trailer below.)
Can You Ever Forgive Me? showed us that Heller has the knack for finding the nuances in bold, controversial figures like Lee Israel. It’ll be interesting to see whether she finds wrinkles in Fred Rogers’ gleaming persona, or if A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood will be a heart-warming affirmation that kindness is still of use in an increasingly cynical world. Lord knows we need it now.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood hits theaters this Thanksgiving, just in time to sweep you and your family into the Land of Make-Believe. Watch the trailer below.