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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Howdy, Neighbor

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) on IMDb

Plot Overview

There is a ready comparison that lends itself to ABDITN. Jack Solomon, a professor of English at Calif. State U, North­ridge, tells us, “I can think of no company that has more suc­cess­fully seized upon the subconscious fantasies of the American market­place than McDonald's. … McDonald's emerged victorious in the ‘burger wars’ by trans­forming ham­burgers into signs of all that was desir­able in American life” (546.) ABDITN show­cases Mister Rogers like a Big Mac. Writes Solomon:

kid with hand puppetFor children, there is the Ronald McDonald campaign, which presents a fantasy world that has little to do with ham­burgers in any rational sense but a great deal to do with the emotional desires of kids. Ronald McDonald and his friends are signs that recall the Muppets, Sesame Street, the circus, toys, story­book illus­trations, even Alice in Wonder­land. Such signs do not signify ham­burgers. Rather, they are displayed in order to prompt in the child's mind an automatic association of fantasy, fun, and McDonald's. (547)

In an opening scene a boy is shown striking Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks) with a plastic sword as Rogers admires his prowess. Eventually the kid comes in for a hug, which demonstrates an inner soft­ness of some sort in a rough-and-tumble boy. Rogers explains to reporter Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) doing a puff piece on him that he focuses through the camera on a single child as an individual. But in his explanation he uses the plural pronoun construction they/them/their rather than the one gram­matic­ally correct for a single child (of non-specific sex): he/him/his. The message delivered is that each child is some­how unisex, or can be treated as embodying both sexes.

To appeal to an older and more sophisticated audience … concerned with finding a place to go out to at night, McDonald's has designated the elaborate “Mac Tonight” commercials, which have for their back­drop a night­lit urban skyline and at their center a cabaret pianist with a moon-shaped head, a glad manner, and Blues Brothers shades. Such signs prompt an association of McDonald's with night­clubs and urban sophis­ti­cation, persuading us that McDonald's is a place not only for break­fast or lunch, but for dinner too, as if it were a popular off-Broad­way night­spot, a place to see and be seen. (ibid.)

In “A Beautiful Day” Lloyd Vogel and his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) plan to spend a day in Jersey to attend the wedding of Lloyd's sister Lorraine (Tammy Blanchard.) It's a sophisticated affair, and in the movie is a fleeting appearance of Boyz 'N the Hood. Mr. Rogers him­self, along with his wife Mrs. Joanne Rogers (Maryann Plunkett,) entertain us with a lounge concert at home. The adult demographic fits right in.

Lloyd has emotional problems manifest when he takes umbrage at his slightly tipsy dad Jerry (Chris Cooper) referring to his—Lloyd's—wife as “doll”—not in any way demeaning—rather than by her own name. It is evident that the script writer Micah Fitzer­man-Blue, of the hyphenated name, made a Freudian slip as doll is but Lloyd spelled back­wards, and women these days are refusing to go by their husband's names so as to not seem to be their appendages. For that matter Lloyd's favorite stuffed toy as a boy was named Old Rabbit. Old is also doll spelled back­wards. The message is that as adults women want more independence than being married and mothers has been giving them.

For yet older customers, McDonald's has designated a commercial around the fact that it employs a large number of retirees and seniors. In one such ad, we see an elderly man leaving his pretty little cottage early in the morning to start work as “the new kid” at McDonald's, and then we watch him during his first day on the job. Of course he is a great success, out­doing every­one else with his energy and efficiency, and he returns home in the evening to a loving wife and a happy home. One would almost think that the ad was a kind of moving “help wanted” sign, but it's really just directed at consumers. Older viewers can see them­selves wanted and appreciated. (ibid)

In the movie the old dad Jerry is the main attraction at his daughter's wedding, giving a toast. After finally getting his act together he's supremely remorseful over the grief he'd caused his earlier family. He camps out for two days on his aloof son's door­step to apologize. He brings over a “home cooked meal”: actually a pizza delivery. The message is that the men can also do the house­work, and in fact Lloyd suggests that he'll take some time off work so his wife can work out­side the home with­out having to be concerned with child care. This movie is a feminist's dream.


the word and prayerWhen asked how to receive help with (emotional) difficulties, Mr. Rogers suggests read the Bible and pray. Lloyd is in such bad shape that we may presume no-one has been praying for him or has gifted him a Bible. He reminds us of a certain man:

(Luke 10:29-32) “And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.”

They didn't want to get their hands dirty. Fred Rogers, however, took an entirely different approach to his hurting neighbor.

(Luke 10:33-36) “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?”

The Samaritans were mixed breed, shunned by the Jews, but here one behaved in a most neighborly way. In our movie Lloyd (who is white) is in a mixed marriage to a Negress. They got married in Hawaii where the various races commingle freely, and the only mixed race social scene was of a happy time on the subway. So what­ever race tensions exist in the movie's setting were screened out to give us a bubble of harmony. That's just how the movie dealt with it, and Andrea for her part acted pretty much white.

Production Values

” (2019) was directed by Marielle Heller. It was written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, based on a 1998 story in Esquire detailing the friend­ship of Fred Roger (host of “Mister Roger's Neighbor­hood”) and writer Tom Junod. It stars Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, and Chris Cooper, with supporting actors Enrico Colantoni, Susan Kelechi Watson and Wendy Makkena. The acting was faultless.

MPAA rated it PG for some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language. It was in part filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA where TV station WQED is located that aired the Mr. Rogers show. The director used a mixed bag of tricks to convey an historical frame­work, surreal interactions, and nostalgic memories. She did a pretty good job of it.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

The story rambles over much in my opinion, although to be fair had I a better grasp of its line, were I more conversant in feminist thought, I might have better apprecicated its flow. Mr. Rogers's light is so bright that it brings its own redemption to an other­wise wasted effort. I just wish feminists would write their own stories rather than appropriate other­wise good material for their pressing purposes.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scene. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Special effects: Curious special effects. Video Occasion: For feminist gatherings. Suspense: Predictable. Overall movie rating: Two stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Solomon, Jack Fisher. “Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising,” from The Signs of Our Time by Jack Fisher Solomon, Copy­right © 1988 by Jack Solomon. As reprinted in Maasik, Sonia and Jack Solomon, Signs of Life in the U.S.A.. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2012. Print.