A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Marielle Heller
I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever actually sat through an entire episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and if I had it was WAY too long ago for me to remember, so while the guy has always been a presence in my life simply by way of cultural osmosis, I never really got to experience him the way that many other people did. The impact was always felt, especially when PBS and public television were still things before the rise of YouTube and streaming services, but what made the show work so well and what made Mr. Rogers such an enigmatic figure for many generations? Well I guess if I wanted to know the answer to those questions then there wouldn’t be a better time to do it then this brand new biopic, right? Well actually the documentary from last year would probably be the best bet which I still need to see at some point, but this movie is a decent runner up! Does it
You’ll be forgiven for thinking that this movie is mostly about Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), but ACTUALLY the movie is primarily focused with Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys); a writer for Esquire Magazine who’s been assigned to cover Mr. Rogers for a piece about heroes right at the time he’s dealing with some serious issues in his personal life. You see, Lloyd has spent the better part of his life avoiding his father Jerry (Chris Cooper) who did some really awful stuff in the past that Lloyd has had no reason to forgive, and yet his sister (Tammy Blanchard) gives him an opening back into their lives at her wedding which eventually leads to Lloyd’s wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) wanting to make inroads with his as well; a movie that utterly baffles Lloyd and puts a serious strain on their relationship which was already under a great deal of stress as they just had a baby. All this is swirling around in his head which isn’t helping his lack of enthusiasm for writing a puff piece about a children’s entertainer, and yet something about Fred Rogers intrigues Lloyd; particularly the utter sincerity with which he approaches everything and everyone around him which is either a genuine extension of himself or possibly a mask for something much darker than anyone would have assumed from such a sweet man they see on television. Is there truly something there for Lloyd to uncover behind the kind face and the red sweaters? Will these interviews with such a noble seeming man perhaps give him some perspective on his own issues and how he’s been handling them up to this point? Most importantly of all, do we get any juicy behind the scene details on the set of the show!? Probably not, but we can always dream, right?
Can You Ever Forgive Me? and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Marielle Heller
Have I mentioned that I really like Melissa McCarthy? Because I REALLY like Melissa McCarthy. The Ghostbusters reboot was one of the best movies the year it came out, The Happytime Murders is one of the best films of this year, and I even liked Life of the Party which may not have gotten QUITE as much negativity as the puppet cop movie, but makes up for it in just how quickly everyone seems to have forgotten about it. Now she gets to star in a nice juicy biopic that doesn’t seem to have the over the top comedic tone of her usual output and is instead a much quieter and more character driven film. Hey, it may not be what she’s known for but I have no doubt that she has the acting chops to pull off something much more serious and it’d be even MORE hilarious if she makes a movie that critics fawn over in the same year that they’ve quite harshly rejected everything else she’s done. Does this biopic capture the importance of its subject matter along with giving Melissa McCarthy an interesting role to work with, or will this be a bigger disappointment than Bohemian Rhapsody? Okay, chances are NOTHING could be as disappointing as that, but let’s find out!!
Back in the long ago time of the early nineties, biographer Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) was struggling to make ends meet with whatever profits she made from her earlier books drying up completely and her bitter attitude and sardonic wit making her not very popular in office environments. This is made especially bad because she’s experiencing a rather lengthy bout of writers block and is being stonewalled by her agent (Jane Curtain), so with nothing else to fall back on a sick cat to take care of she starts to pawn off whatever memorabilia she has; including a letter she got from Katherine Hepburn. It seems that letters like this can fetch a nice price from book stores and collectors, though when she just so happens to find two more letters from someone else who is famous she learns that they need to be… spicy as it were to fetch more than a few bucks. Well hold on! She’s a writer, isn’t she? And she writes about famous people already, right? Why, it wouldn’t be THAT hard to just make up some letters in the voice of those famous individuals and use old typewriters with old paper to more or less print money! That will give her enough money to help her sick cat AND keep her drinking habit alive! So she begins her life of crime which not only keeps a roof over her head but gives her a passion for writing that she hasn’t experienced for some time; not to mention giving her a little cash to spoil herself and her friend Jack Hock (Richard E Grant) who eventually joins her to help cover her tracks. How long though can these two keep this scheme of their going before collectors and the authorities start to take a closer look? Even if they can get away with it, will it help Lee understand and maybe even resolve the issues that have been plaguing her life and her writing up to this point? Is it too early to start filling out my Award Card yet? I know we’ve got another two months and I’m NOTORIOUSLY bad at picking winners, but this time I’m feeling lucky!