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George At 

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Powerfully moving, quiet and fascinating, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is a testament to friendship & family.

I always expect Tom Hanks to excel, but he's superb here as PBS Kids Show host Fred Rogers. When he's told that he'll be featured in Esquire magazine's Hero Edition, Rogers extends a kind welcome to reporter Lloyd Vogel.

Vogel (Matthew Rhys) has built his career on scathing exposes on a wide swath of victims. He's insulted and palpably embarrassed to even be assigned to do a 400 word puff piece on Mister Rogers.

As Vogel's wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson of "This Is Us") tells him before he leaves for the interview, 'Don't ruin my childhood", but can Lloyd fight his instincts to ruin the man?

Rogers extends every courtesy and Lloyd is baffled by Rogers kindness. He assumes that its too good to be authentic, that Rogers must be a dark person behind the facade.

Watching Lloyd's fast-patter, assault instinct fade under the un-withering goodness of Rogers being is a tribute to Rhys and Hanks. It could have felt manipulative, but both men never let a moment feel less than authentic.

Director Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) presents the film in a challenging way, with Mister Rogers opening the film just as he did the daily kids show and presenting Lloyd's story as the lesson of the day.

At first, I found myself resisting the structure, but its so funny and I guess "charming" is the only word, that you quickly get drawn into Lloyd's flights to Pittsburgh being portrayed with that tiny city model that opened every episode.

There are fantasy sequences with Lloyd immersed inside the TV show, lessons of mortality and empathy that never feel heavy-handed.

The boldest choice is deep into the film, when Hank's flawless Mister Rogers has a quiet moment with Lloyd in a diner. He asks Lloyd to take one full minute, to consider a specific question about his life. Less than 15 seconds into that minute, Hanks moves his gaze to stare directly into your eyes as the viewer. It's a silent and powerful plea for you to examine your life in the same way. Damned if I didn't spend the next half minute silently examining my own life to answer that powerful question.

It pulls the film deeper and higher, setting up a strong final act.

Chris Cooper (August Osage County) is perfect as Lloyd's estranged, alcohol father. He's one of our best actors and is given a wide palette of emotions to play here. He's terrific.

Hanks has said in interviews that the hardest part of playing Rogers was to slow down his speech enough to accurately portray the man. Hanks nails it and richly deserved his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Mister Rogers is a secondary figure in the film to Lloyd and the story of the way his life was changed by meeting the man.

Filled with heart, empathy and kindness, its a terrific movie that leaves you feeling good, but never patronized to in its storytelling.

Once you see it, make sure and also watch the documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor" for an in depth look on how Fred Rogers truly broke ground in children's television, tacking topics like the Vietnam Way, Divorce and Death for his pre-school viewers. It's also a startling piece on an amazing man.

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD gets an A. If you can survive Hanks stare into your eyes and not think about your own life, you better check your pulse.....

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