Showing posts with label Fires Were Started. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fires Were Started. Show all posts

Friday, November 29, 2019

"A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the Mr. Rogers movie "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" as well as the DVDs "After the Wedding" and "The Peanut Butter Falcon."  The Book of the Week is "Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me" by Adrienne Brodeur.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Fires Were Started."]

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A fictionalized version of the true-life friendship that developed between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod.

Mr. Rogers isn't just for kids as this film shows. Yes, he was the beloved star of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," a force for good in the lives of so many children, but in this film we also learn what a force for good he was to everyone he met, young or old.  

If you were expecting a biopic on the life of Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), you might be disappointed because the story focuses more on Lloyd Vogel (a fictional version of writer Tom Junod played by Matthew Rhys), a cynical journalist at Esquire Magazine, who is assigned to do a piece on American heroes, Mr. Rogers being one of them.  However, Lloyd is not happy with his assignment because he is an investigative journalist who likes to uncover dirt on people, not write puff pieces. But he is informed by his boss (Christine Lahti) that he doesn't have a very good reputation in the journalism world, and, in fact, Rogers was the only one of the prospective "heroes" who would sit for an interview with him because of his reputation for doing such a hatchet job on people. So, basically she gives Lloyd an ultimatum.  He accepts the assignment, but he is not happy about it.  You see, Lloyd is not a happy man in general. He reluctantly embarks on the interview, but then becomes intrigued by Rogers.  Could this guy be for real?  Is he really as nice as he seems?  Let's see what we can dig up on him!

As I said, Lloyd is not a happy man.  In fact, he is a broken man who is estranged from his father, Jerry (Chris Cooper) and sister and is a workaholic, leaving his wife, Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson), to care for their new baby on her own. He also has conflicted feelings about his role as a father because of his relationship with his own father.  His relationship is so bad that when he meets Rogers for the first time, he has cuts on his face from an altercation with his father at his sister's wedding and Rogers, in his inimitable and emphathetic way, immediately sizes Lloyd up.

Written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, one can't help but compare this film to the 2018 documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor?," a film I listed as one of the best of 2018, and one that captured the power of Fred Rogers.  I mean, he single-handedly saved PBS! Though this film touches on many of the aspects of Rogers' life that were part of the documentary, it ultimately goes in a different direction, highlighting the effect that Fred had on others by living a good life and always striving to be a better person.  Yes, people, he was for real.  And we should all try to be the kind of person Fred Rogers was.

The story is based on the experiences of journalist Tom Junoh who was assigned to write a short 400 word piece on Rogers on whether or not he was for real or not as in can anyone really be this nice? Thinking he would be exposing a fraud, Junoh was so affected by Rogers that he wrote a 10,000 word piece instead and was forever affected by his friendship with Fred Rogers.  

It is that piece upon which this film is based.

But this film, directed by Marielle Heller, is also a tutorial for us all in how to live our lives, and a reminder that there really was a wonderful man named Fred Rogers who walked his talk.  If you can keep yourself from crying or at least tearing up during this film you are a better person than I or you just have a cold, cold heart.

There are all kinds of special moments in this film: when Fred asks Lloyd to close his eyes and think for one full minute of all of the people who loved him and helped him get to where he is today (everyone in a diner participates and if you are alert you will see Fred's real life wife); or when he helps Lloyd share his feelings, telling him if it's "mentionable it's managable," or when he tells Lloyd that Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love." 

Yes, Fred Rogers was for real.  He really loved people and prayed for them. He listened.  He practiced forgiveness.  But most of all, he wanted to help children with their feelings, to let them know it was okay to be sad or mad or scared.  And then he helped them direct their anger away from hurting others. And ultimately, he helped raise those children into better adults. Fred Rogers was an amazing role model but he was also human. He could get angry just like everyone else. Though we never see him get angry in the film, there is a beautiful moment at the end  that shows Fred's humanity when Fred is playing the piano. No words necessary.

Who could play the nicest man on television but the nicest man in Hollywood?  

Every time Hanks was on screen I teared up.  He embodied Fred Rogers. However, though I loved this film, I wish Hanks had been in more of the scenes.  He plays more of a supporting role, because, as I said, the film is about Lloyd. But as Fred might have said, "That's okay," because Rhys is also quite wonderful as Lloyd, showing his transformation after meeting Fred and being changed forever.  I also have to give a shout out to Susan Kalechi Watson.  She is a beautiful actress whom I have admired on the TV show "This is Us." She exudes a warmth and comes across as a real person. So glad to see her on the big screen.

In this time of so much divisiveness and hatred, where is Fred Rogers when you need him? 

  • How much better would it be for us all to take that one minute every day and think about and mentally thank those who loved us and helped us get to where we are today?  
  • How much of a better world would it be if we were able to share our real feelings with those we love? 
  • How much of a better world would it be if we could forgive?
  • How much of a better world would it be if we stopped talking and started to listen?  
Speaking of listening, I saw Tom Hanks on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" recently where he talked about what he learned from playing Mr. Rogers, and he said,

"He taught me that listening is a million times more important than talking.  There is an acronym that I've now started using in my own life -- W-A-I-T, wait -- which stands for 'why am I talking?' You should just sit and start listening to everybody that comes across your way and you'll be amazed at what you learn."

I know several people who could learn from that!

But we can't change other people.  We can only change ourselves. I feel I am a good listener, but after seeing this film, I have decided that I am going to be even more conscious of listening more and talking less, and when I am in a difficult or uncomfortable situation, I am going to ask myself  "What would Fred Rogers do?" Not a bad idea for all of us to do, don't you think?

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film is a must see!  You will leave the theatre wanting to be a better person. And you should. We all should. Oh, by the way, ring, ring!  Mr. Hanks?  Oscar calling!

***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


After the Wedding (2019)

A woman who runs an orphanage in India travels to New York to meet a possible donor.

This is one of those talkie domestic dramas, also known as "women's movies," but I am not complaining because I am a woman and I love "women's movies."  And who can resist a film starring Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams? So I had high hopes for this.

Isabel Anderson (Williams) is an American do-gooder who has devoted her life to the children of India, running an orphanage there. But she needs money.  There is an interested donor but the donor wants to meet Isabel in person so reluctantly Isabel leaves the orphanage and travels to New York City where she meets Theresa Young (Moore), a rich media mogul who is busy preparing for her daughter Grace's (Abby Quinn) upcoming wedding.  After meeting with Isabel, Theresa tells her that she needs to think more about how she can help Isabel so she invites her to the wedding and tells her that they can talk more after the wedding.  Isabel is not happy about staying in New York but reluctantly attends the wedding only to see someone from her past - Theresa's husband, Oscar (Billy Crudup), her ex-boyfriend from high school!  Ah, the serendipity of life! Ah, the secrets that will be revealed! Ah, the contrivances that ensue.

Theresa and Isabel could not be more different.  Theresa is a New York business woman who overshares and can make small talk and joke convincingly. She is caught up in the planning of her daughter's wedding, but it soon becomes apparent that Theresa is not Grace's biological mother.  Theresa met Oscar when Grace was only one, but Grace considers Theresa her mother and loves her very much.  Isabel, on the other hand, is childless and devoted to her orphanage in India.  She is a serious, no-nonsense woman who has devoted her life to the lofty goal of helping others.  She just wants to get her money and get the hell out of Dodge, er, New York and back to doing good. She doesn't want to hang with these rich people who don't seem to have a care in the world. You can see some judgment on Isabel's part as she listens to Theresa making plans for the wedding - lobster or shrimp? Sigh.

Written and directed by Bart Freundlich (who just happens to be Moore's real life husband), this is a remake of the 2006 Danish/Swedish film of the same name. Since I don't remember seeing the original film, I can't blast this one for being a remake (which I usually do). So I won't.  As the film goes on, we learn more and more about each of these women's lives, and it becomes more and more complicated as secrets and resentments are revealed.  We also discover how they ended up where they are and the connections they share. 

Up to and before the many twists were revealed, the film was quite wonderful, but then too many little very convenient, contrived plot points cropped up and the film kind of went off the rails and turned into a bit of a soap opera. But that's not to say that I didn't like this film. I actually did, contrivances, convenient plot devices and all.

For me, Julianne Moore is one of those actresses like Jane Fonda and Meryl Streep, an actress who can be counted on to give a good performance and garner awards.  Can you believe there was a time when I didn't appreciate Streep and Fonda? I felt they had actressy mannerisms that got on my nerves at times.  But then they grew on me and I realized what great actresses they really were.  I have the same kind of feeling about Moore. She has entered that echelon of icons of acting, but I sometimes feel like I can tell she is acting.  She also has some actressy mannerisms, but here she pulls back and is convincing and a nice counterpoint to Williams.  And just as Theresa and Isabel are polar opposites, so, too, are Moore and Williams as actresses. Williams is a more subdued actress, and because she is not as flashy as Moore, she sometimes doesn't get the props she deserves.  I tend to like her style of acting best but the two together created a memorable film experience. It's also good seeing Billy Crudup.  He is everywhere these days and after his promising start as a leading man back in the 80's appears to have found his niche has "the husband."

Rosy the Reviewer says....contrived and melodramatic but other than that, I rather liked it.

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down Syndrome, runs away from his care home to become a professional wrestler.

Zak has Down Syndrome but has been placed in an old people's home because no one knows quite what to do with him.  He is obsessed with the Salt Water Redneck, a professional wrestler who advertises his wrestling school on TV.  Zak is tired of hanging with the old folks, so regularly tries to escape the home and finally does, taking off his clothes, slathering himself with soap, and wiggling out through a barred window that his old nursing home friend, Carl (Bruce Dern, whose career has embraced playing curmudgeonly old guys), has helped him pry open the bars.  He heads out to Salt Water Redneck's wrestling school.  He hides in a swamp boat owned by Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), who himself is running away from some guys who want to hurt him because Tyler has the bad habit of stealing from other fishermen. The two form an unlikely duo and a sort of buddy/road trip film ensues. Meanwhile, Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), one of Zak's caregivers, is sent out to search for him and when she finally finds Zak and Tyler, the three misfits band together to help Zak live out his dream as a professional wrestler.

If that all sounds too good to be true, it is, but this is one of those films meant to tug at your heart strings. Tyler starts out as a grumpy guy but Zak's winning ways win him over and he bonds with Zak, teaching him how to fish and swim and drink!

Shia LaBeouf has had some personal problems over the years and gotten himself into some trouble (most recently while making this film), which has overshadowed his acting but there is no denying that he is a good actor. I didn't even really recognize him at first. Dakota Johnson doesn't have much to do in this except provide a female presence so don't expect any "Fifty Shades" stuff, but it's Gottsagen who is at the heart of this film.  And the film does have heart, though for me that wasn't enough.

Written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, this is one of those feel good films - you are supposed to feel good after you see it - but I didn't.  I found it far-fetched and actually kind of boring.  I know.  I'm a cynical grouch.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like sentimental and cliched, you might like this.  I didn't.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

52 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Fires Were Started (1943)

The story of firefighters in London during the Blitz.

Humphrey Jennings may not be a director remembered today, but Jennings was an English documentary filmmaker during the 30's and 40's with over 25 films under his belt before his death at the age of 43.  This one was also considered a documentary but is really a dramatization of the lives of firemen in London during WW II and was produced as propaganda to bolster the spirits of the Brits during the War.  Humprey used actual firefighters and nonprofessional actors to play fictional characters depicting a day in the life of a fireman during the London Blitz and, which sometimes is not a good thing, because you can tell these guys are not actors. 

The film begins by showing a "day in the life" of a London fireman at the firehouse, dancing to music, singing and hanging out. You know, the kinds of things people did before TV, computers and cell phones. It's all very happy-go-lucky until halfway through the film when the bombing begins.  But still they sing.  I'm sure it was all meant to calm the spirits of the civilians living through the bombing, to reassure them that they were in good hands.  I mean, these guys are singing and dancing knowing that they will soon be out there fighting fires with bombs falling all around them every single night. Even the lady firefighters who do the office work get their due.  When a bomb hits the firehouse and blows out a wall, they are knocked off their chairs but one plucky lady, despite a wound on her head, pops up and continues her phone report as if nothing had happened. If that doesn't exemplify, "Keep calm and carry on," I don't know what does. 

The film is capped off with the firemen fighting a huge blaze with bombs falling, saving a munitions ship in jeopardy and having to rescue their fellow firefighters. The film ends with an homage to the bravery and sacrifices that the firefighters had to make.

I get this as a document of a terrible time in British history and an homage to the bravery of those who must carry on against all odds, but as a satisfying film experience, for me, not really.

Why it's a Must See: " archetypal story of a day on shift and a fire at which a blaze is controlled before it sets light to a munitions ship, delivers action and suspense."

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is one of those films that made me wonder why I needed to see it before I died.  Zzzzz

***The Book of the Week***

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me by Adrienne Brodeur (2019)

Why mothers shouldn't make their teenaged daughters their best friends!

When Brodeur was just 15, her mother, Malabar, woke her up one night and said "Ben just kissed me."  Ben was her husband's best friend and that marked the beginning of a long affair and Brodeur was pulled into it to help her mother keep her mother's secret.

Malabar was a flamboyant, beautiful woman who was a brilliant cook and who loved to entertain.  She was married to her second husband, Charles, who sadly had a stroke and could no longer do many of the things he once could. He liked to pass his days reading and, as a descendant of the pilgrims, working with the local pilgrim museum. Ben was Charles' best friend, a dynamic and charming fellow who loved to hunt and fish and he was married to Lily, a woman who didn't really care about her appearance and was not in good health.  The foursome had been friends for years, but I guess it was inevitable that the two more dynamic partners would be drawn to one another.

At first Adrienne was thrilled that her mother confided in her.  She felt very special and grown-up to have her mother's attention even if she did feel guilty about Charles.  The two came up with a plan to allow Malabar and Ben to get together without anyone getting suspicious.  They decided to write a cookbook on preparing wild game.  Ben would hunt and fish and Malabar would prepare recipes and they would all taste the food.  Get it?  Wild game?  That's the name of the cookbook but also the name of the crazy affair that ended up not only hurting the main players but affected Brodeur for the rest of her life as well.

If ever there was a story that shows why you shouldn't want to be besties with your children, this is it.  You will find yourself pulling your hair out reading all of the oversharing Brodeur's mother did with her.  It's cringeworthy but the book is engrossing.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a cautionary tale for mothers and daughters!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Knives Out"


The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.