I’ll tell you what: Growing up, I watched my fair amount of Mr. Rogers, and I won’t lie: I had a fairly cynical view of the man. I appreciated what he was doing, but as a child, I never could quite connect with him. Part of it was because watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was like throwing a glass of water on the five-alarm fire of my particular family’s brand of dysfunction, but most of it was this: I didn’t believe him. I didn’t believe a man could be as good and kind and as gentle as Mr. Rogers. People like that were too good to be true. It had to be an act — one person cannot possess that much goodness! And why did he always speak with that soft voice?
I saw right through it, until I got older and learned more about Mr. Rogers and realized only much, much later that Mr. Rogers was the real deal. It was not an act. The man is every bit as wonderful as he appeared to be on our television screens. The man even liked zombie films! I wish I’d been more trusting and less cynical as a kid, and maybe I’d have been more receptive.
Anyway, Tom Hanks is playing him in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and well, you couldn’t get a more perfect actor for the role. Matthew Rhys plays a cynical journalist assigned to profile him. I have no idea, however, where the dramatic conflict is going to come from in a film about Mr. Rogers.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood opens in November, just in time for awards season.