A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Alex
The film opens as one large episode of the Mr. Rogers show – Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) talks directly to the audience, welcoming us and sings “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. He shows us pictures of some of his friends, and finally shows us a picture of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) – it’s a picture of him looking anguished with a bloody nose. He explains that Lloyd had a lot of anger and had to learn about forgiveness.
In 1998, Lloyd is an accredited investigative journalist who has just had his first baby with his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson). As they get ready for Lloyd’s sister Lorraine (Tammy Blanchard)’s wedding, Andrea tells Lloyd that his father will be there. He is angry but attends anyway and sees his father Jerry (Chris Cooper) who has not seen in years. Jerry corners him into talking and brings up Lloyd’s mother, and Lloyd hits him – other wedding attendees get involved, and wine gets spilled all over Lorraine’s wedding dress and someone punches Lloyd in the face, and he becomes the picture Mr. Rogers showed the audience at the start.
His editor Ellen (Christine Lahti) assigns him a profile for their upcoming issue on heroes: Mr. Rogers. Lloyd has no interest, but she tells him that no other subject would agree to be interviewed by him: most of his pieces are takedowns of their subjects. When he gets home, Jerry is waiting outside his apartment to talk to him. He ignores Jerry, who waits outside his apartment for two days before giving up.
Lloyd leaves for Philadelphia leaving Andrea home with the baby. He meets Bill Eisler (Enrico Colantoni), the president of Mr. Rogers production company, who is suspicious of him, having read his pieces. Finally he meets Mr. Rogers, who is incredibly kind to him. Lloyd keeps looking for what the catch is, but can’t find it. Mr. Rogers asks how he hurt his eye, and when Lloyd tells him about the fight with his father, Mr. Rogers is sincerely concerned for him. An associate cuts their interview short and Lloyd returns home.
Shortly after, Mr. Rogers is in New York and invites Lloyd to spend the day with him. He meets Mrs. Joanne Rogers (Maryann Plunkett), who again tells him there’s no catch with Mr. Rogers. Lloyd and Mr. Rogers take the subway where the people of New York begin singing “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. At Mr. Rogers’s apartment, Lloyd keeps asking him tough questions trying to peel back his layers. But Mr. Rogers deflects and takes out his puppets and ends up finding more about Lloyd’s childhood – about how his mother died when he was young and how he also had a special toy named “Old Rabbit”. Mr. Rogers asks about his father, and Lloyd becomes upset and defensive and leaves.
When he gets home, Jerry and his long-term girlfriend Dorothy (Wendy Makenna) are there making dinner with Andrea. Lloyd wants them to leave, and he and Jerry get into a shooting match because Lloyd can’t forgive Jerry for cheating on and abandoning his mother and their family while his mother was dying. Jerry pleadingly apologizes and then has a heart attack. At the hospital, the family finds out Jerry is dying and does not have much time left. Lloyd hates hospitals since his mother died and decides to leave to go back to Philadelphia – Andrea is angry at him for abandoning his family and tells him to stay, but he goes anyway.
In Philadelphia, Lloyd passes out from exhaustion and has a dream where he is the puppet Old Rabbit in King Friday’s kingdom instead of Daniel Tiger, and Andrea is Lady Aberlin. He then sees his mother on her deathbed and she tells him he doesn’t need to hold onto anger for her. He wakes up at the Rogers home to find Mr. and Mrs. Rogers playing piano. Mr. Rogers takes him to lunch. During the conversation, he tells Lloyd to take one minute of silence to think of all the people who loved him into being. Then looks out at us, the audience, so we can as well.
He returns home and apologizes to Andrea and tells her how scared he is and how much he needs her. They move into Jerry’s home to take care of him while he’s dying. Jerry and Lloyd are able to make peace, and Lloyd writes a massive article about Mr. Rogers that becomes the cover of Esquire. During the holidays, the whole extended Vogel family is celebrating when Mr. Rogers comes by to visit. Lorraine and her husband are shocked. Mr. Rogers is thrilled to meet them all, and before leaving whispers to Jerry to pray for him. Lloyd asks why, and Mr. Rogers tells him that Jerry must be close to god right now. Jerry dies shortly after, and Lloyd tells Andrea he’s going to take some time off so she can go back to work.
Mr. Rogers ends the episode of his show, says goodbye to us, and leaves the set to watch the playback. As the lights shut off in the studio, he sits and plays the piano.
The movie is framed as an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks), tells us the story of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), who is a cynical reporter assigned to do a piece on Mr. Rogers. Lloyd's father Jerry (Chris Cooper) abandoned him as a child and keeps trying to reconnect, by Lloyd rejects him. Lloyd goes to interview Mr. Rogers and is shocked by his kindness, and the two form a bond. Eventually, Lloyd is able to work through his anger and forgive his father, taking care of him when he goes into heart failure until he dies. Mr. Rogers says goodbye to the audience, walks off the set, and plays the piano.