Good news. Mister Rogers is cleaning up the neighborhood.
A small movie by comparison to things like “Frozen 2” and “Joker,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is taking off at the box office. After a $13.5 million soft opening over the weekend, “Beautiful Day” has had very strong Monday and Tuesday outings. It looks like it will build nicely over Thanksgiving weekend.
Tom Hanks stars as Mr. Rogers, but it’s not a biopic. It’s about the friendship he developed in real life with Esquire writer Tom Junod, played beautifully by Matthew Rhys. Junod was struggling with his relationship with his father– Chris Cooper, also lovely work. Susan Kelechi Watson is outstanding also as Juno’s wife.
And while all the actors are excellent, Hanks is the standout. He makes everything look easy, but it’s not. Hanks is at the top my list of this year’s Best Supporting Actors, and it’s a competitive group. We’ve got Brad Pitt from “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Al Pacino and Joe Pesci from “The Irishman,” Anthony Hopkins from “The Two Popes,” Sterling K. Brown from “Waves,” Sam Rockwell from “Richard Jewell,” and George Mackay from “1917” at least.
Hanks won two Oscars back to back in the 90s as a leading man for “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump.” Academy voters probably thought that was enough, but Hanks has only had two more nominations since then, for “Saving Private Ryan” and “Castaway.” It’s been twenty years since he’s been in the Oscar race. It would be criminal if he weren’t in it this year.
And he does make playing Mr. Rogers look easy, which it’s not. That role could so easily turn into a parody or worse, something cloying. But Hanks invests Mr. Rogers with a subtlety and grace that I doubt anyone else could have pulled off. Just Renee Zellweger does in “Judy” this season, Hanks invests enough of himself to make Fred Rogers a three dimensional human. I’m guessing from Monday and Tuesday box office numbers word of mouth is spreading, and that a new generation will discover Tom Hanks’s many skills.