Friday, 17 January 2020

Best Supporting Actor 2019: Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks received his sixth Oscar nomination for portraying Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a sweet little fable about a cynical journalist Lloyd (Matthew Rhys) whose life and world view is changed through an assignment to profile children TV show host Mister Rogers.

The beloved Tom Hanks returns to Oscar recognition, after being snubbed for nearly two decades, for portraying beloved children entertainer Fred Rogers. Although the film features Fred Rogers, it is not the story of his life, and Hanks, despite being a defining feature of the film, is correctly placed supporting as putting the emphasis on the idea of "supporting". Well before that though the casting itself here seems potentially ideal as one beloved entertainer playing another, though Hanks's strengths of an actor have never been in the actor of imitation. Hanks's performance though isn't one imitation. He doesn't try to transform himself into Rogers by losing his own presence, instead Hanks makes a fundamental decision, and the right decision, to craft an amalgamation between himself and Rogers. This as he lightly alters his voice towards the especially calming voice of Rogers, his folksy demeanor, and easy going physical manner. Both are light though while maintain that Hanks presence that is defined by seeming to be so approachable and amiable. This idea though let's pause on for moment though as Hanks actually gives sort of two performances here. This in that we have two Mr. Rogers's within the film. This as we meet both the man, and almost supernatural version of the man, more representative of the more limited view one was specifically able to see on TV. Now, Rogers was a man he appeared to be, but there is a difference still between the two particularly terms of how this is used in the film. This as the latter's use goes beyond show recreations, and towards almost an otherworldly observer of sorts over the tribulations of Lloyd.

This is as Hanks himself introduces the film we are watching as an episode of Mr. Rogers, with different segments coming in and teaching lessons based upon Lloyd's life. Hanks makes for a wonderful host himself as his own rendition of Rogers. This bringing just such a natural warmth as everything he says is completely bereft of even the slightest hint of condescension. This as he speaks language attuned to be understood by even the youngest children, however in this Hanks does not speak dismissively in this manner. Hanks instead emphasizes only these earnestness in every remark as he presents the story. A story he presents with an optimistic but not just glowing manner. There is an important teaching quality that Hanks delivers, not that of a lecture, but rather finds a softness in this as man presenting a life lesson that one will truly benefit from hearing it. Hanks though is able to capture this wonderful charm in the real simplistic manner of the whole presentation. This with Rogers not being this big bombastic showman, but rather a truly quiet little program. Hanks though finds the right attitude and spirit within this. This being the idea of the man truly inviting you to be his neighbor in the scenes by carrying this relaxed attitude, with just that slight smile of his to make sure that you feel comfortable right with him. Hanks brings these scenes to life as a recreation of Rogers, not by doing a one to one impression, but more importantly finding the unique charm of the man's ways, which weren't the most complex but also were defined by a full and welcoming heart.

Outside of the framing device though we do get to meet Rogers within the film, and he's not too different from that man who presented us with the story. Hanks though is excellent in not so much showing some other person, but rather more of Rogers as a person. This as in his first "real" scene, we see him reaching out to Lloyd as he arrives on Rogers's set for the profile. Hanks brings the same enthusiasm that he showed Rogers greeting his "neighbors" on the show as he does to speaking to Lloyd. Hanks's portrayal is overwhelming in a way, but overwhelming in the right way. This as much as it is as this excessive appreciation of just meeting someone, compared to the norm, Hanks's bright smile and outgoing presence though affirms that this is the only the honest truth. He's not acting like meeting Lloyd is the best thing in the world, for him meeting Lloyd really is the best thing in the world in that moment. Hanks makes the every concerning word only the reality of the who the man is who really does care for this man he just met, and wants to make sure that he is alright. We see the same zest in every human interactions we see Rogers have. This as Hanks shows a man who without exception loves people, and creates in his eyes this sincere fascination within everything about them. This as he speaks to Lloyd about his problems, Hanks keeps this consistent eye contact and interest, as a man who absolutely cares and wants to show his support towards him as one person to another.

Hanks's work though goes beyond from being just as personable in, well, person as he is on TV.  This is really one of the most pivotal aspects of his performance. One key one being when Lloyd sees Rogers performing as one of his puppets Daniel Tiger. The voice is about as simple of a puppet voice as one can think of, replicated as such by Hanks, but the greatness of the moment is Hanks showing Rogers as he performs the scene. This is where Daniel is talking about his anger and having to work through it, and in this scene Hanks's face becomes burdened by its own distresses he goes into a song. This isn't in the moment though of Hanks revealing the truth that the rest of the scenes of Rogers is fake, but rather a truth that makes the man more tangible. This as we see the release of the negative through the positive expression of a song. This is also seen in his scene where Lloyd asks Rogers about the rougher periods of his life and his relationship with his sons. Hanks is outstanding in this moment in that as he speaks of these parts there is a in his eyes a sense of some anxieties over the period and pain. His voice though speaks of an equally relevant comfort though as Rogers explains that it is something he's come to work with and accept. Hanks in both of these scenes shows importantly that Rogers isn't some otherworldly force, but a self-actualized man. Self-actualized not by being perfect, but rather knowing that he will have hard feelings and how to deal with them. In these moments Hanks shows the pain not of some repression, but rather of this sense of understanding and knowing how to respond to it. He portrays the effort that Rogers puts on it, that doesn't diminish his personality, but rather shows that it is not some impossible thing to achieve. On that though we then do have the man who essentially knows how to funnel bad emotions, not by hiding them but dealing them in a positive way. There is the particularly wonderful moment of a sort of fourth wall break, where Hanks's Rogers asks Lloyd to think about those who have loved him into being. Hanks is looking right at the audience moment, is realized with a real poignancy as he carries that same appreciation for all, as though each is so important all at once. Tom Hanks's performance here is a fittingly beautiful piece of work here, as he not only creates his own convincing realization of the man's style, but more importantly creates such a vivid sense of his essential philosophy towards life.


Luke Higham said...

So happy that he has more than 1 five now.

Matt Mustin said...

"Tom Hanks did not receive an Oscar nomination..." you might want to fix that.

Anyway, yes, he's completely wonderful here.

Louis Morgan said...


Hard habit to shake.

Anonymous said...

My ranking of nominees:
1. Hanks
2. Pacino
3. Pesci
4. Pitt
5. Hopkins

PS: I still hope that Louis Morgan gives Tom Hanks a win on his blog!

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: It's Pesci's win, end of.

Anonymous said...

Louis, have you managed to see any other 2019 releases.

Mitchell Murray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Hannigan said...

For me, Hanks deserves no more than 3.5 for his turn as Mr Rogers. Partly because of the limits of this strange movie, which doesn't give him a chance to go deeper inside this character. The director offered him just an one-dimensional role of a mentor of a cynical journalist, whose pivotal role is to deliver nice bon mots. But also every time I watched this movie, I just saw Hanks himself. Another version of "America's Dad". He easily outlined a polite, patient, empathic personality, and chose a warm voice well. But I just see Hanks playing Mr Rogers, not Mr Rogers himself. I'm bit surprised by Louis's appreciation. For me, he is the least impressive among quite an impressive line this year.