Hyde Park On Hudson Movie Review
Following a love affair between Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his cousin Margaret Stuckley (Laura Linney) also known as Daisy, HYDE PARK ON HUDSON focuses in on their time spent at the President’s home in the beautiful countryside of Hyde Park – specifically one weekend in 1939, when the newly crowned King and Queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Coleman) stop by for a weekend to seek support from the United States.
Much like last years overrated MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, HYDE PARK ON HUDSON features a fine performance but not much else. I was bored and bewildered by the inconsistency and lack of respect given toward the female characters. Queen Elizabeth is portrayed as a whiney priss, Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams) is portrayed as inconsiderate and mannerless, and Daisy, the supposed heart of the film, is bland and uninteresting.
Introducing Daisy and the President as love birds by having the President guide her hand to an implied sexual act like a teenage date rapist is immediately off-putting, setting a bad taste for both characters. Listening to Daisy’s dry enunciation during the voice-over as she narrates the actions, is like nails to a chalkboard. I’m usually a big fan of Laura Linney but her character is not used properly and is given zero personality. As a guide into the story, one would think that the character would be more compelling. However, the filmmakers took the characters diaries from which the story is loosely based and didn’t know how to handle it. The best part of the film is the section in the center during the King and Queen’s visit, yet these scenes are mostly done where the eye of Daisy is nowhere to be found, despite her being the storyteller. HYDE PARK ON HUDSON would have been better served dropping the bookend narration and reversing the focus, putting the emphasis on the visit between the President and King, while placing the love affair as a side character.
Bill Murray is excellent as FDR, definitely playing outside his type further than ever before. His interactions with King George (Bertie, the same stuttering King portrayed in THE KING’S SPEECH) are among the films highlights. Murray exudes charm, charisma and leadership. Samuel West as Bertie is no slouch himself providing so much likability that he nearly steals the show. I guarantee, one will never pronounce, “hot-dog” the same way after watching his delivery.
But these few delightful positives aren’t enough to save HYDE PARK ON HUDSON from being less than mediocre. The overall scope feels scattered and pointless. I’ve always been curious about the 32nd President’s struggle with Polio and how he managed to keep images of his disability away from the public. Regardless of his skill, I wonder if the people would elect a candidate with his type of disability. It’s an interesting concept to parallel FDR’s known but still somewhat secretive inability to walk on his own with his known yet somewhat secretive personal affairs. Unfortunately, director Roger Michell was unable to fully capture that concept and correct the terribly uneven script.