Tag Archives: Marielle Heller

TIFF19: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a beautiful excuse for a movie, but it is not a Mr. Rogers biopic.  It’s more like if this week’s episode of Mr. Rogers was tackling the theme of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), who just happens to be a journalist who meant to write a Fred Rogers profile once.  And he didn’t really succeed – he wrote 10,000 words, mostly about himself.  But it was meeting Mr. Rogers that inspired and enabled him to start to process his childhood trauma and deal with his feelings.  The movie ends up being a 70-30 split, and not in Mr. Rogers’ favour.  Which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, it’s a reminder of the profound impact that Mr. Rogers’ love and Beautiful-Day-TIFF2019acceptance had on all of us.  Above all, he taught us it was okay to feel.

Lloyd Vogel is a cynic.  He normally writes about a broken world.  He’s not thrilled to be writing about a children’s television show, and he’s determined to see the star’s mask slip.  To see that Mr. Rogers isn’t a goody-two-shoes character but rather Fred Rogers’ honest expression of his best self is hard for Vogel to accept.  Meanwhile, Mr. Rogers sees through him – sees his anger, recognizes it for pain, and has a healing effect, despite Vogel’s resistance.  With a newborn baby at home and an estranged father who’s reappeared only to announce he’s dying, Vogel’s life is perhaps in need of some friendly ministration.

Director Marielle Heller finds exciting and innovative ways to frame the story, except she stole them all lovingly and conscientiously from Mr. Rogers himself.  It’s a way to honour what was truly special about his show – everything way thoughtful but low-tech, without fuss or flash.  The continuity was comforting.  Of course, the most incredible coup is the casting of Tom Hanks in the iconic cardigan.  He’s wonderful, channeling Fred Rogers’ sense of calm and peace.  His signature style of slow, deliberate speech is such a balm to those he’s talking to – it is rare to feel the scope of someone’s focus.  It’s also hilarious to watch his producers lose their shit as the time and attention he gives each guest means their show is constantly behind schedule.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn’t exactly the movie I expected, but it took me through all the feels (weep count: 3) and left me feeling like a very valued neighbour indeed.  Mr. Rogers has always said that he tried to look through the television into the eyes of one individual child.  Today I was that child, and I think you will be too.

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Top 10 Female-Directed Movies 2018

10. The Land of Steady Habits: Nicole Holofcener directs some layered, complex performances, especially from Ben Mendelsohn, who plays a man flexing his cringe-worthy mid-life crisis. The film ends up achingly authentic and deeply bittersweet.

9. Blockers: Kay Cannon is the woman behind one of the few comedies I laughed at in 2018, and its box office makes clear I wasn’t the only one. It’s both a teen comedy and an empty-nest one, and manages to be funny, irreverent, and modern about both. Cannon’s cast is loose, and the jokes land handily, the script smart and quick.

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8. Outside In: Lynn Shelton gets some moving and tender performances out of Jay Duplass, who plays a man just released from prison, and Edie Falco, who plays his high school teacher who hastened his release. Their story is absorbing and empathetic, and Shelton teases some naked tension out of it, keeping us in her grip.

7. Private Life: Tamara Jenkins sneaks us behind closed doors to see witness adulthood and marriage as they are rarely seen. In the throes of fertility struggles, Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti give truly fine, heartbreaking performances.

6. What They Had: Elizabeth Chomko delivers a film that’s hard to look away from. Blythe Danner plays a woman with Alzheimer’s while her family (Robert Forster, Michael Shannon, Hilary Swank), swell and melt around her. It’s a real family drama that’s familiar and necessary.

5. The Kindergarten Teacher: Sara Colangelo justifies her American remake by packing a real punch and eliciting a wonderful performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal. This is one film that kept unfolding itself even after it was over, as it stayed in my thoughts for days.

4. A Wrinkle In Time: Ava DuVernay bravely adapted a beloved children’s book and ended up modernizing it, giving it relevance, and making an enduring, beautiful film that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages.

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3.You Were Never Really Here: Lynne Ramsay deals us a real swift punch with her gutsy, bold film, and proves she has a bracingly unique cinematic eye. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is riveting.

2. Leave No Trace: Debra Granik dares to mold this dramatic story into a quiet, low-key film that demands little yet accomplishes much – everything. Leads Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie have terrific chemistry that sprinkles the film in authenticity.

1.  Can You Ever Forgive Me: Marielle Heller promises a lot with her premise, but manages to deliver even more. This movie worked for me on so many levels. The story is compelling. Melissa McCarthy is at her very best. It’s frequently laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a platonic LGBTQ love story with the unlikeliest, unlikable heroine, yet she’s always treated with dignity and empathy, and we can’t help but adore her, even in her crankiness.