A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood premiered last night at the Toronto Film Festival, and it seems that the decision to cast America’s most beloved actor—Tom Hanks—as America’s most beloved TV personality (and, quite possibly, person)—Fred Rogers—paid off handsomely.
At least that’s according to the consensus of the critics who’ve seen the film. They agree that the film avoids sappiness (our greatest fear about the project), and the choice to tell the story through a journalist working on a story (our second greatest fear about the project) actually works.
But the highest praise is reserved for Hanks. More than one critic says he’s in line for his first Oscar nomination since 2000’s Cast Away.
Mark it: best actor is gonna come down to Mr. Rogers versus the Joker, and there are going to be some pissed-off people when Mr. Rogers wins.
— Matt Zoller Seitz (@mattzollerseitz) 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
Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman writes that “Hanks isn’t just good — he’s transporting. He takes on Mister Rogers’ legendary mannerisms and owns them, using them as a conduit to Rogers’ disarming inner spirit. He makes you believe in this too-nice-for-words man who is all about believing.”
The most surprising thing we’ve heard about the biopic is that it’s not really a biopic at all. Many of those critics who think Hanks deserves an Oscar don’t think it will be for best actor.
“This movie isn’t about Rogers himself: He takes a backseat here,” writes USA Today’s Brian Truitt, continuing which should worry anybody who might face Hanks for a best-supporting-actor Oscar.”
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 was not what I was expecting, but they found a clever way to profile a saint of a man by telling it through the eyes of the cynical journo who profiles him. Might not be enough Mr. Rogers, but Tom Hanks is absolutely perfect playing him. #TIFF pic.twitter.com/ffSHKoS0cJ
— Kevin Polowy (@djkevlar) September 8, 2019
Matthew Rhys is the true lead actor, as a skeptical journalist writing a profile of Rogers. His character is based on Tom Junod, whose 1998 profile of Rogers for Esquire inspired the film.
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
#TIFF19 Day 3: A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD just wrecked me. Beautiful, sensitive direction from Marielle Heller. Tom Hanks is a magnificent Fred Rogers, but Matthew Rhys is at the center of this telling and he’s heartbreakingly good.
— David Canfield (@davidcanfield97) September 8, 2019
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Less of a biopic on Mr. Rogers and more on the profound influence his kindness had and the ability to see the good in the most troubled souls.
Hanks is great because, of course, but Matthew Rhys is the real star of the show.
— Matthew St.Clair @ TIFF (@filmguy619) September 8, 2019
This heaping praise is making us even more excited to see When A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood hits theaters on November 22. And when we go, we’ll be sure to bring the tissues. Gleiberman says that “When the film comes out, there won’t be a dry eye in the megaplexes of America.”
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is out in wide release in theaters on November 22, 2019.