Arts & Entertainment
A Beautiful Day Movie
by Rusty Wright
Posted: November 15, 2019
Want him as your neighbor?…
Ever feel lonely? Underappreciated? Frightened? Need a friend who's kind? Respectful? Wise? You might like Mr. Rogers.
Fred Rogers' Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood television program aired nationally in the US between 1968 and 2001. Sony/TriStar's new film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, depicts Fred's friendship transforming a cynical journalist's life. It's based on writer Tom Junod's true story in his .
Stars include Oscar winners Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump; as Rogers) and Christine Lahti (Chicago Hope), plus Matthew Rhys (The Americans), and Susan Kelechi Watson (NCIS).
This movie is fun, funny, and moving. It skillfully explores dealing with common painful emotions in healthy ways, using stories designed for kids but that reach adults' hearts.
Unlikely TV phenom
Rogers (1928-2003) was an unlikely TV phenom. He made kids in his audience feel special and wanted, using puppets, music, and folksy affirmation to create safe spaces.
Each show, he traded his coat and loafers for a cardigan and sneakers, warmly welcoming viewers to his neighborhood. Parents extol his influence on their own childhood and on their children.
Stories of his emotional impact abound. One boy's first words were of "X the Owl," a Rogers puppet. He never looked his father in the eye until his dad invited him to "go to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe."
Love Boat actress Lauren Tewes with cocaine addiction. Once she felt the opening to Fred's show was "God speaking to me through the instrument of Mister Rogers," and remained sober for several decades.
A gained hope and respect through Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and phoned an abuse hotline. The hotline operator adopted the boy.
Urban legends; faith stories
Urban legends also abound about Fred: He was a Navy SEAL or a Vietnam War sniper. His trademark cardigan hid arm tattoos. All really does have one of his cardigan sweaters; a young (and later Oscar-nominated) actor Fred's show as the Black and White Panda; and Fred was a Presbyterian .
He once to a young viewer, "You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. …Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God's love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
Who is my neighbor?
Given his faith roots, it's not hard to guess one possible influence on Rogers' "Neighbor" motif.
A first-century Jewish lawyer Jesus of Nazareth, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus, who as a Jew surprised people by freely mixing with the despised Samaritans, told a now famous story: The Good Samaritan aided a badly injured Jewish traveler who had been ignored by two passers-by, Jewish religious leaders. Which of the three was the "neighbor"? Obviously, the one who showed mercy.
Lost and found
In any case, Rogers' life and words pointed people toward divine goodness and belief. Esquire writer Tom Junod ended by relating an impromptu prayer meeting in Rogers' office that touched him deeply:
"What is grace? I'm not certain; all I know is that my heart felt like a spike, and then, in that room, it opened and felt like an umbrella. I had never prayed like that before, ever. I had always been a great prayer, a powerful one, but only fitfully, only out of guilt, only when fear and desperation drove me to it…."
"Once upon a time, you see, I lost something, and prayed to get it back, but when I lost it the second time, I didn't, and now this was it, the missing word, the unuttered promise, the prayer I'd been waiting to say a very long time."
"'Thank you, God….'"
A Beautiful Day might get you thinking about ways to mend relationships. Hope so.
Rated PG (USA) for "some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language."
Opens November 22 (USA, Canada)
Also see Greg Asimakoupoulos' tribute to Fred Rogers, ""
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com• E-mail the author (moc.loa@thgirwytsur*) • Author's website (personal or primary**)
* For web-based email, you may need to copy and paste the address yourself.
** opens in a new tab or window. Close it to return here.