A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood First Reviews: Tom Hanks is "Perfect," "Transporting" As Mr. Rogers

Critics at the Toronto International Film Festival say Tom Hanks is as good as you're hoping as Fred Rogers in a smart, moving new film that creeps up on you.

by | September 8, 2019 | Comments

Is it even possible to make a bad movie about Mr. Rogers? Arriving on the heels of the successful 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) 96% comes equipped with the too-perfect casting of Tom Hanks as children’s television icon Fred Rogers. The very first critics who saw the film couldn’t help but be charmed by the movie and Hanks’ portrayal, as represented in the first reviews out of the Toronto International Film Festival. Viewers were in tears at the premiere and calling it one of the actors’ best, which says a lot, of course. (Note, these are the very first reviews for the film, drawn mostly from the movie’s world premiere at the festival; as the movie is screened in the next few days more early reviews will come in and we will add those to this article as they’re published.)

Here’s what critics are saying about A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood:

Let’s get this out of the way: Is Hanks perfect as Rogers?

“There’s no question that Hanks is perfect in the part…people will relax into the movie so much that they’ll forget they’re watching an impersonation.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

“Hanks’ body language is at once stoic and vulnerable, the pace of his speech as Fred is slow, slower than most people. But the actor brings so much focus that it’s impossible to find a reason to move faster, if it would mean missing a single moment spent in his company.” – Ella Kemp, The Playlist

“Hanks’ cuddly pedigree means he was born to play Rogers, and he immerses himself in the role.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“Hanks isn’t just good — he’s transporting.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“It’s hard to imagine that his pitch-perfect channeling of Rogers’ magnificent and slightly unsettling calm won’t put him in the thick of a supporting-actor race.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“There’s a sweetness to the performance that never veers towards saccharine; Hanks consistently strays away from any sort of cliches to find deeper meaning.” – Jordan Ruimy, World of Reel

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
(Photo by Lacey Terrell)

Is this just a standard biopic?

“This is no straightforward biopic, and for that we can probably be glad…it’s the rare biopic that doesn’t wander into predictability or cheese, or both.” – Sara Stewart, New York Post

“It’s absolutely not a biopic…it’s a two-hour therapy session about the relationships we have with our parents and learning to cope with death, with Hanks’ Fred Rogers as a conduit.” – Mike Ryan, Uproxx

And it’s not even just about Mr. Rogers?

“This movie isn’t about Rogers himself: He takes a backseat here, which should worry anybody who might face Hanks for a best-supporting-actor Oscar.” – Brian Truitt, USA Today

“Perhaps this is the only way to really make a film about Fred Rogers — by making it about the people whose lives he touched.” – Hannah Goodhead, Little White Lies

“The film is smart enough to not get us too close to Rogers. Look, you just can’t. He’s almost too otherworldly.” – Mike Ryan, Uproxx

“Some viewers may be disappointed this film isn’t all about Fred Rogers, but after a bit of reflection, I think less may be better.” – Sara Stewart, New York Post

How is Marielle Heller’s direction?

“Heller’s filmmaking is a patchwork quilt of influences from Mr Rogers himself. She uses an imagined episode of the show as a framing device; takes musical inspiration from Rogers’ own compositions and puts a miniature Vogel in rabbit ears, enforcing a bonding moment with Mr Rogers’ puppets.” – Wendy Ide, Screen Daily

“Heller, as she proved in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, has a gift for taking straightforward scenes and flooding them with emotion.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Heller does take a few ambitious swings, and they always come as a welcome surprise.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“After her fantastic first two features, The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me?, it’s a bit disappointing to see Heller taking on material with no edge at all.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

“[Heller gives] her audience some kind of recognizable knot in the stomach, one of nostalgia, one of gratitude and grace.” – Ella Kemp, The Playlist

“Having proven herself to be among the more empathetic directors working today, her equally understated delivery reaches the ethos of Rogers’ philosophy.” – Luke Parker, We Got This Covered

What about the screenplay?

“The script by the team of Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster serves up very little that you can’t guess after the first few minutes.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

“The script, by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, applies Rogers’ genial mode of address to present a prototypical case study of anger management. It’s not the most sophisticated device, but it positions Rogers above the drama with an ethereal glow that matches his otherworldly reputation, and lingers in his appeal.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood
(Photo by Lacey Terrell)

Should we expect to shed tears?

“When the film comes out, there won’t be a dry eye in the megaplexes of America.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Suffice it to say that tears were flowing onscreen and off at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

But does it get too sentimental?

“Heller sticks to understatement in a way that threatens to become dull or sappy but never does. What she pulls off here is a small, sweet miracle of sorts.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“In the hands of a lesser storyteller, [the film] would resort to cheap, maudlin devices…Heller, however, excels at pulling heartstrings from sturdy foundations” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

Are the laughs to be had?

“…this film is indeed very funny, as investigative journalist Vogel chafes at the idea of a 400-word assignment to write about Rogers for a special issue devoted to heroes.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood
(Photo by Lacey Terrell)

And How is Matthew Rhys?

“But it’s Rhys who dominates the film, with a fine, fractured performance as a man who can’t bring himself to forgive the sins of his father.” – Wendy Ide, Screen Daily

“Matthew Rhys triumphs as the jaded investigative journalist, fighting both his professional cynicism and deeply rooted resentment for his imperfect father… It’s a transformative performance, one that begins with stony bitterness and gives way to an emotionally naked revelation without ever losing an ounce of gravitas.” – Ella Kemp, The Playlist

Are there any issues with this Mr. Rogers tale?

Beautiful Day relies a bit too much on Rogers’ built-in appeal, but it exhibits a visible confidence about the rationale for staying within those bounds.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“Visually, the film could have been sharper, with more color and luster.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

“…it won’t be for everyone. The laser-focussed niceness that was Mr Roger’s USP can seem a little disconcerting to those not accustomed to it. But even in territories where audiences are unfamiliar with Fred Rogers’ hokey appeal, the film’s humour, its amiable charm offensive and its gentle weirdness should disarm all but the most cynical.” – Wendy Ide, Screen Daily

Will A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood make me a better person?

“Hanks’ all-in portrayal ought to snag him an Oscar nomination, and ideally will also inspire a little more kindness in all of us.” – Sara Stewart, New York Post

“Not only does [Rogers] cast his spell on Vogel but also on the audience watching the movie. You feel like a better and more determined person once end credits role.” – Jordan Ruimy, World of Reel

“If you do open yourself up, there’s something wonderful to find in this movie…you will learn more about yourself.” – Mike Ryan, Uproxx

“No one can be Mr Rogers, but at the same time, everyone can. All it takes is a little kindness to yourself, and a little kindness towards others.” – Hannah Goodhead, Little White Lies

“This grand episode is also one for us, too, to learn a lesson about forgiveness at a time when we might need it the most…It’s still Rogers’ neighborhood and we’re still learning from him.”- Brian Truitt, USA Today

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019. It will be in theaters November 22, 2019.

Adjusted Score: 111.274%
Critics Consensus: Much like the beloved TV personality that inspired it, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood offers a powerfully affecting message about acceptance and understanding.
Synopsis: Tom Hanks portrays Mister Rogers in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, a timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism,... [More]
Directed By: Marielle Heller

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

Marvel Television Endgame The Arrangement Film Disney Plus LGBT NBC Best and Worst romance TCM First Reviews canceled jamie lee curtis space Holiday GLAAD best Britbox DirecTV Teen romantic comedy Freeform Star Wars Mary Poppins Returns FOX Summer President Star Trek Animation name the review free movies Photos TCA 2017 elevated horror GIFs Rocky Emmy Nominations 007 TBS A24 singing competition Funimation Character Guide Pop TV Comics on TV RT History OWN politics USA crime thriller Pop serial killer BBC America TNT Rom-Com 4/20 based on movie animated boxoffice BBC war Superheroe biography social media 20th Century Fox reviews Tomatazos FX Food Network composers 45 Amazon Prime Lifetime Fall TV justice league stand-up comedy stoner AMC anthology Turner Classic Movies zero dark thirty breaking bad Schedule slashers sitcom Mary poppins concert Grammys Mary Tyler Moore Discovery Channel Family New York Comic Con PBS batman 24 frames Sundance TV Reality revenge cartoon Crackle dc Women's History Month Paramount Writers Guild of America cults Cosplay 21st Century Fox streaming cats robots Western festivals 2019 south america game show Paramount Network Sneak Peek Awards RT21 Television Academy movies FXX Universal Mudbound Nat Geo CNN See It Skip It Esquire YouTube Red Black History Month Dark Horse Comics YouTube docudrama DC Comics Cartoon Network 71st Emmy Awards cops ratings DGA foreign Starz spy thriller crime drama Box Office The Witch anime crime Pet Sematary Chernobyl comiccon screen actors guild unscripted Valentine's Day SDCC Musical ABC Watching Series Fantasy franchise Set visit Arrowverse The Purge dragons Classic Film Hulu police drama Epix Trophy Talk TV renewals child's play 2016 television SXSW Heroines spanish language VICE Opinion Turner TIFF Comic Book Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt TCA Winter 2020 The CW Spring TV NYCC El Rey Academy Awards political drama Netflix Christmas movies blaxploitation BET true crime spinoff teaser Sundance Now Rock Mindy Kaling criterion dogs Warner Bros. Action Film Festival movie Quiz VH1 mockumentary Baby Yoda Acorn TV Red Carpet blockbuster Hallmark Christmas movies Ovation sports E! Certified Fresh theme song Winter TV talk show canceled TV shows die hard supernatural 2018 Year in Review comics psycho ESPN ITV Lionsgate MSNBC cars Black Mirror strong female leads CBS All Access CMT spain Masterpiece Kids & Family Musicals adaptation medical drama dramedy Premiere Dates DC Universe psychological thriller Lifetime Christmas movies transformers natural history E3 Tumblr American Society of Cinematographers Biopics Logo Travel Channel cancelled TV series Lucasfilm Bravo a nightmare on elm street screenings Nominations Amazon Studios aliens Crunchyroll IFC Films discovery Disney GoT Spectrum Originals kids Amazon A&E disaster Superheroes Countdown Apple TV+ Disney Channel rotten movies we love IFC USA Network Creative Arts Emmys PaleyFest dark MTV Election Disney streaming service ABC Family Comedy First Look zombie Super Bowl Trailer quibi TLC universal monsters Amazon Prime Video Hear Us Out Music The Walking Dead Apple TV Plus nature Sci-Fi sag awards game of thrones Pride Month green book HBO hispanic independent Reality Competition Emmys WarnerMedia science fiction DC streaming service toy story Apple directors spider-man mission: impossible Nickelodeon book Song of Ice and Fire Rocketman Marathons Infographic National Geographic cancelled TV shows Walt Disney Pictures historical drama latino versus YouTube Premium all-time Peacock halloween Holidays Stephen King Cannes TV 2020 WGN sequel Pixar LGBTQ renewed TV shows Brie Larson reboot casting Captain marvel Sony Pictures zombies binge award winner joker series miniseries Adult Swim Shudder Shondaland Ellie Kemper witnail hist diversity adventure HBO Max Elton John period drama Pirates richard e. Grant documentary YA critics TruTV what to watch cancelled television indie Marvel video Horror Vudu Tarantino Fox News cancelled asian-american Calendar Country Columbia Pictures dceu finale Ghostbusters mutant SundanceTV doctor who comic parents ghosts vampires Spike werewolf FX on Hulu Tubi OneApp Oscars CBS Extras chucky TV Land Podcast travel Martial Arts Netflix thriller Video Games crossover Winners tv talk Drama MCU Binge Guide San Diego Comic-Con cooking Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Polls and Games Showtime Trivia Mystery Avengers Thanksgiving CW Seed comedies Marvel Studios facebook technology Awards Tour scary movies History Toys Comedy Central X-Men Christmas Interview 2017 cinemax Syfy APB christmas movies children's TV Disney+ Disney Plus TCA harry potter 2015 Hallmark Sundance Anna Paquin golden globes