Review of An Extraordinary Friend, the drama starring Tom Hanks

Review of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a film based on the friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod directed by Marielle Heller. In theaters as of August 21, 2020.

An extraordinary friend It is not a biopic, so that those of you interested in inquiring about the figure and the media impact of the musician, presenter, educator and puppeteer Fred Rogers, you will have to refer to the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbour?, from 2018 which, by the way, has wonderful reviews.

The film at hand is based on the Esquire article “Can You Say … Hero?” published by Tom Junod, a journalist whose friendship with Rogers changed his outlook on life, in his own words.

In fiction his metalinguistic alter ego is Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys, Perry Mason), a writer jaded and devastated by the death of his mother who is commissioned to interview Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks, Greyhound), the host of a children’s program in which he tries to help children cope with their feelings by giving them a basic emotional education.

He will help you overcome your skepticism, teach you to talk about your feelings, and value kindness, love, and forgiveness. After all, Fred Rogers is America’s dearest neighbor … Not surprisingly, his show was on the air for thirty years and Tom Hanks himself declared that he saw it with his son when he was a child. In other words: it has been a benchmark for several generations.

Vogel is going through a crucial moment in his life: he has just had a son when his father reappears in his life after abandoning him and his sister. Their differences in terms of their idiosyncrasies and their way of seeing things are obvious, but they also hold a tremendous resentment for not having appeared at his mother’s funeral and for the way in which he treated her in life.

An extraordinary friend It is a film with a heart, candid but at the same time incisive that goes only above the problems that Rogers himself deals with, who, never better said, like every neighbor’s son, also had his own concerns.

It focuses more on their therapeutic ability to get others to accept their own feelings and deal with them. And the individual in whom we are going to see the change take place is the protagonist who goes through all phases: denial of reality, rejection, violence … “Forgiving the people you love the most is the most difficult thing,” says Rogers. in his program and he is right.

The main problem with the film is that by looking at the first minutes of the footage, you can already guess how the story is going to end without making the slightest mistake. In this sense, the script by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Niah Harpster is tremendously flat and accommodating. They fail to create attractive subplots or add layers to characters that show their complexity.

Yes, there is a rupture of the fourth wall that is as disturbing as it is inquisitive and makes the viewer’s emotions run to the surface: it is the climactic moment of An extraordinary friend and the one that makes it clear to what extent we are fragile and need inspiring beings of light to help us be grateful, kind and better people. We all need to pay more attention to our emotional intelligence and not just at an early age. It seems obvious to us to instill in children certain skills so that they learn to discern their emotions, to accept them and act accordingly, enabling them to know themselves better and to relate with more empathy and kindness to their environment. But what about the adults we intend to guide them? Are we ready for that company? Do we listen to ourselves? Do we build bridges around us?

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The point of view of the film has nothing to do with that of the series Kidding that, although it is not based on Rogers ‘personal life, it does take it as an obvious reference to build the public figure of Mr. Pickles, Mr. Rogers’ alter ego. In the series, which you can see on Movistar + and which unfortunately has not been renewed for a third season, the main character is in the hands of Jim Carrey and the story is much richer both in the imaginative plane and in the search for hot topics how to face loss, sadness, separation from parents or life milestones with the child audience.

A An extraordinary friend It needs to get out of the mold of classic storytelling and better explore the characters. That said, Hanks does a great job (yet another) and the film leaves a good taste in your mouth. In its apparent simplicity, lies part of its charm … Although you have to be patient to get to the last third of the film, in which everything makes sense. It is predictable, yes, but it touches you on the inside.

Assessment

Candid and emotional, An Extraordinary Friend shows one of the vital passages of the influential Fred Rogers, in a portrait of a good man with an immense informative capacity that caught several generations with his advice on emotional education.

The best

The good background of the film, it has very exciting moments and Tom Hanks does a good job getting into the skin of Fred Rogers.

Worst

It is a tremendously predictable film, the outcome of which you see coming from afar. The script lacks courage, especially since there is a series like Kidding.

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