Director: Mariel Weller
I was thinking about seeing the film 1917 then I read a tweet where the poster said they felt like they had had the shit kicked out of them by Connor McGregor after seeing it.Hmmm.Then I read an interview with Tom Hanks about this film. He explained it as largely being about men, their feelings and their in/ability to express them. The vehicle for this theme is interview by a cynical,invrstigative journalist for Esquire magazine and Fred Rogers – Mr Rogers. I had never heard of him but I understand him to be an iconic figure in the proper sense of the world, for American children who had been brought up on his TV programme, A beautiful day in the neighbourhood.
So I watched some videos of him. Gentle, soft, twee, naive, hokey, lame. A range of reactions were felt and yes even a bit of distate in this sick paedophilic world. In looks he reminded me of Pee Wee Herman sans makeup and avec cardigan. If you decide to see the movie and are unfamiliar with the man and the show then having a look at some YouTube clips before you go. That’s my suggestion.
So off I go to the mid afternoon session with my seniors discount ticket along other seniors.
It becomes apparent, quite quickly, that this film has a number of layers. There is the journalist, Lloyd, dismissive, annoyed at having to do a light story, trying to work this guy out, whether it is an act, “what’s his angle”. How can the nicest man he has ever met really be that nice. To which his wife responds “don’t ruin my childhoood” Then there is LLoyd trying to get a sense of the tensions and turmoils within Mr Rogers and his relationships. More importantly, there is Mr Rogers getting to size up the journalist Lloyd and pressing his buttons. Not to inflame him but to home in on those things that are meaningful. LLoyd is irritated. “All my questions end up being asked back to me”. But, more importantly, he is defensive coz this is a bloke with a lot of frustration, anger and bitterness and the reasons get played out through the film. Another layer is what Mr Rogers is saying to the children watching his show. Viewing life through the prism of a child and helping them with how to make sense of it and manage their way through it. But these little sayings, little homilies have a wider application and you may find yourself, like I did, reflecting on them in the context of your own life, your own emotions. An instructive scene is where there is a flashback to his mother, abandoned by her husband, Lloyd’s father when gravely ill. She says something like ” I hope you are not being angry for my sake, I don’t need it”. Anger and how to respond to it or thwart it comes up a lot.
The journalist spends a lot more time with Mr Rogers than was required for the intended piece because Mr Rogers has got to him, his niceness ,his perceptiveness and his gentle words of guidance are helping Lloyd and the final story for Esquire is much longer and a very different piece. The Esquire article was the basis for the film and it is available online. Type in Can You Say Hero and Esquire but my advice is to read it after the movie.
Hanks grew up watching Mr Rogers’ show and he is superb. Fred Rogers came from a wealthy middle class family, he led a “soft” life and is quite devout, praying a lot for others and reading scripture. One could easily dismiss him , his saccharine world and his platitudes. But I didn’t.
The world would be better if T-shirts with “It’s Ok to be white” were amended to read “It’s ok to be nice”
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Times of self relection