Inspired by a true story.

Our story takes place in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. That is, it opens with an imaginary episode in which Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) introduces his viewers to his friend, Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a fictional character based on Tom Junod, the reporter whose 1998 encounter, article, and subsequent friendship with Rogers inspired the screenplay. The key scenes unfold with Hollywood realism. However, transitions use Mr. Roger's Neighborhood-style sets of the locations. Events will even plunge briefly into that world; Vogel at one point dreams he's in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

It's ultimately a biopic of the fictitious reporter. We learn more about Vogel's life than we do about Rogers's. Vogel is a cynical man, estranged from his father but trying to do his best as a new parent. He represents the people Rogers wanted to reach. Of Rogers himself we receive some insight, but very little of his history. We never meet his own children. The film asserts that the public man was no performance. Fred, an ordained Presbyterian minister, prays for people by name. He tries to live his life according to the principles that guide his show. When difficulties arise, he reflects, when possible, before reacting. Vogel asks Mrs. Rogers what it's like to live with a saint. She tells him that her husband hates that epithet. It implies that he's doing something unattainable.

Marielle Heller's direction has been enhanced significantly by Hollywood's leading everyman. Hanks may not look a whole lot like Rogers, but he certainly performs him effectively.

The episode ends. The final credits feature Rogers singing, well but imperfectly, as we watch behind-the-scenes clips. We're reminded of the artifice. We haven't been watching reality: but a neighborhood of make-believe, thoughtfully engaged, can help us understand our world.

300 words

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