How big a heart does the average Academy voter have? That may be put to the test when considering the awards candidacy of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” The inspirational drama, centered on the lessons and teachings of Fred Rogers, has eschewed being a traditional biopic and instead taken an alternative path. While formally unconventional, the film tugs at emotions expertly. As Oscar season heats up, will this one be left in the dust, or will its message resonate with members of the Academy?
Starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers, the movie looks at the television icon as a beacon of decency in the world. In particular, he’s seen through the lens of a skeptical journalist, played by Matthew Rhys. The official synopsis, via IMDb:
Two-time Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks portrays Mister Rogers in 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 (Emmy winner Matthew Rhys) is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about empathy, kindness, and decency from America’s most beloved neighbor.
Marielle Heller directs a screenplay by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster. Supporting players here, include Tammy Blanchard, Enrico Colantoni, Chris Cooper, Susan Kelechi Watson, Christine Lahti, Maryann Plunkett, and more. Nate Heller (brother of Marielle) composed the score, while cinematography is by underrated DP Jody Lee Lipes.
On the festival circuit, this film made a lot of fans. Even just here on the site, Shane had a positive review out of TIFF to share. Here’s a bit from that:
By centering the story on a damaged individual whose life is changed by his encounter with Mr. Rogers, it beautifully reminds us of the power of compassion in making the world a better place.
A movie like this is hard to pinpoint, awards wise. In terms of quality and its message, it’s among the most important works of the year. However, in 2019, biographical type cinema is not necessarily the Oscar catnip that it once was. The way the season has gone, it also seems like voters aren’t running to put it on. Could this be some lack of nostalgia towards Rogers? After all, the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” was snubbed in Best Documentary Feature last year, after spending months as the frontrunner. It’s possible that members of the Academy just don’t see him in that light. If so, a shut out for the flick is decidedly possible.
So far, the early precursors have really only considered Hanks’ candidacy with any seriousness. Largely, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” has struck out with a number of critics groups. Hanks has gotten in most places, including the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild, setting him up for a nomination from the Academy. Besides him? There’s been snubs galore, including Heller being among the female filmmakers ignored by various voting bodies this year.
On AwardsCircuit’s December 10th prediction updates, Clayton sees “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” only showing up in a single Academy Award category, nearly getting the big snub. Notably, above the line it’s currently number fifteen in Best Picture, fourteen in Best Director for Heller, number nineteen in Best Actor for Rhys, number eight for Hanks in Supporting Actor, and scoring a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for Fitzerman-Blue and Harpster, grabbing the fourth slot. Below the line, it all seems like long shots, limiting the spots this flick can show up in to realistically Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay.
Anyone who is sure they know what’s going to happen this season to “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is lying. A rational look at things only has Hanks in Best Supporting Actor as likely, though a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination would make sense too, depending on how that category shakes out. In a perfect world, the sets would get noticed too in Best Production Design, but that’s a long shot. Sit tight to see how a feel good film like this fares in the current Oscar race. Could it be a sleeper or just too old fashioned to get in? Stay tuned to find out…