“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
It’s not a biopic or Hollywood’s version of how Fred Rogers became “Mr. Rogers.” It’s actually based on the true story of a cynical reporter sent to interview Fred Rogers and how that changed his own life. Tom Hanks looks nothing like Fred Rogers, yet he BECOMES him. In fact, watching this film, you think you’re spending time with the actual Mr. Rogers yourself!
The cynical reporter is played by Matthew Rhys of “The Americans” and his wife is played by Susan Kelechi Watson (Beth on “This Is Us”). Chris Cooper is amazing as the reporter’s estranged dad. This movie could have the nickname “It’s an Oscar Day in the Neighborhood.” Tom Hanks is a shoo-in for a Best Actor Oscar nom. If he wins he’d be only the 2nd actor EVER to win 3 Best Actor Oscars. The other is Daniel Day-Lewis. Oscar winner Chris Cooper can also look for a nom for Supporting Actor.
With our country so needing a Mr. Rogers this film is just exactly we could all use right now: kindness and understanding, especially when things get tough. So yeah- look for this to be nominated for Best Picture as well. I first met director Marielle Heller when she was a guest on “Sonstein Sunday” for “The Diary of Teenage Girl,” a brave movie about female teenage sexuality. I called it the anti-“American Pie.” Heller also directed last year’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” with Melissa McCarthy’s startling Oscar winning performance. This movie could give Heller her first Oscar nom. We could all learn from Mr. Rogers right now. This movie is the closest we can get to him.
Think “Erin Brockovich” except instead of a female law clerk leading an environmental fight, it’s a big chem lawyer who becomes a whistleblower. And like the Julia Roberts’ Oscar winner, this is also based on a true story: Rob Bilott's firm repped every single big chemical company except DuPont. Bilott ended up going after DuPont not by choice, but after a friend of his grandmother came to him with the story of how they poisoned his land, his cows and ultimately, his family and community.
Mark Ruffalo is the crusading lawyer. What amazed me most in this story is how his boss supported the fight even though it’s a corporate law firm that DEFENDS chemical companies. In fact, that’s their specialty. Tim Robbins plays the boss. Anne Hathaway plays Bilott’s wife in a role that doesn’t call for her to do much. Still, she makes it more memorable than it would have been in the hands of a lesser actress.
Directed by Todd Haynes, the man behind “Carol” and “Far From Heaven”, both of which visually stunned me with their colorfulness. This time Haynes made the look of “Dark Waters” match the title. The story itself is what is so astounding in this movie- a fight that has lasted over 20 years. It’s a do-the-right-thing tenacity lesson.