With her last film, the critically-acclaimed “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Marielle Heller accepted the grueling challenge of painting an odious misanthrope in a positive light. And dang, she pulled it off with aplomb, Melissa McCarthy and screenwriters Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty helping the director make notorious bunco writer Lee Israel not only excusable but utterly endearing (read our review here).
Heller clearly isn’t tempted by an easy life, her upcoming feature “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” entailing molding Tom Hanks into the iconic Mr. Fred Rogers. At first, Hanks feels like an inspired choice to play the host and creator of educational children’s TV series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” both men famously likable. Yet, there’s an element of ‘square peg, round hole’ here, Rogers characterized by a certain quietude absent in Hanks. While the two-time Oscar®-winner charms those around him, putting them at ease with humor, Mister Rogers had a way about him that could often feel a tad awkward.
But together, Heller’s overwhelming success with “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and Hanks acting prowess herald a winning transformation. And hey, “Transparent” writers Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster are behind the movie’s script. Who better to pen such a transformative role?
Here’s the official synopsis for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”:
A timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. After a jaded magazine writer is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about empathy, kindness, and decency from America’s most beloved neighbor.
The project isn’t to be confused with Morgan Neville’s 2018 Sundance darling “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” a documentary on Rogers’ life and guiding philosophy.
Also starring Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper, and Susan Kelechi Watson, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” will be released in the U.S. by TriStar Pictures on November 22, 2019. Watch the trailer below.