HYDE PARK ON HUDSON
The story of the affair between President F.D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his distant cousin Daisy Stuckley (Laura Linney), centered around the weekend in 1939 when the stuttering King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) of the United Kingdom visited upstate New York to persuade the US to ally with the UK in the war against Nazi Germany.
Review by Louise Keller:
The President's mistresses, a royal visit and a hot dog picnic are the tasty ingredients of this slight but intriguing drama that concocts a menu of infidelity and insecurity on the eve of the forging of the US and British alliance. With the incongruous casting of Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nelson's screenplay concentrates on the personal, offering a somewhat voyeuristic view of the events leading up to the 1939 visit of King George (Samuel West), whose stutter is symbolic of his lack of self-assurance. While Roger Michell's tale may wish to springboard from the success of The King's Speech, the rewards here are less defining; the strength of the film comes from the performances and a vivid portrayal of ambience.
The story's perspective comes from that of Roosevelt's fifth cousin Daisy (Laura Linney), whose relationship with the President changes one day in the middle of a field of purple flowers during one of their frequent drives in the countryside around Hyde Park, his childhood home. Moonlight Serenade is playing on the car radio when FDR guides Daisy's hand to its intimate destination. Based on personal letters found under Daisy's bed on her death (aged 100), the narrative explores the relationships between Daisy and the crippled Roosevelt as well as the other women in his life. Elizabeth Wilson is a formidable presence as Roosevelt's domineering mother, while Olivia Williams brings a wonderful sense of the artisan to his wife. Elizabeth Marvel plays the President's secretary Missy, who knows and sees everything and has more revelations for Daisy.
The most interesting part of the film comes with the heralded arrival of King George and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), who come to broker allied support to the British on the eve of WW2. The casting of the royal couple works a treat - being totally different from the sympathetic portrayals of Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech. There's a horsey physicality about Colman, which brings credence to her representation and all ears are pricking for the private conversations between hen-pecked husband and disapproving wife, when Bertie expresses his frustration at constantly being compared to his brother Edward, who gave up the throne for the twice-divorced Wallis Simpson.
The developments in the relationship between Daisy and Roosevelt are far less appealing and while Linney is a class act, Daisy's character is essentially dull. The concoction of the climactic elements - of the relationship and the royal picnic, at which the controversial Hot Dogs are served - feels contrived. Lol Crawley's cinematography of the beautiful English countryside (doubling for Hyde Park, New York) is exquisite: the winding roads and lush fields look like a painting. The ambience from the slice of life cut from this regal and presidential pie however, is tastier than the exposition.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In February 2013, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln gave Australians a cinematic insight into a great American President at the height of his triumph. By considerable contrast, in March 2013, Roger Michell takes us inside the chaotic home of another American President, this one seemingly caught up with multiple affairs - but not of state. Hyde Park on Hudson 'dishes the dirt' if you like, albeit with an excellent cast whose sheer luminosity outshines the tawdry business.
Bill Murray seems to enjoy being FDR, useless legs notwithstanding (I'll leave crass cracks about other body parts to others) and whether it is authentic or not as a portrait I certainly can't tell. In any case, the point of the film seems to be that he was having several affairs. For me this is not enough to hang a film on; it's a bit meaningless. There is scant dramatic tension and even the Royal visit turns up dull. That it may have been isn't the point; besides, neither Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth nor Samuel West as George VI have enough to work with. They seem, like most of the other characters, thinly drawn.
One exception is Olivia Williams as Eleanor, the President's complex, brittle but brilliant wife, whose presence gives her scenes some frisson. But it's not enough to save the film being laborious and lumbering.
Laura Linney plays the secret lover, Daisy, and she is always watchable and her face is her emotional mirror, but the poor girl has to restrain her spirits to play a dowdy, mousy and naÔve young woman on whom the whole film rides. Tough call. It is Daisy who provides the narrative, so we are seemingly watching the events through her eyes ... except of course when she is not around. The device breaks down and we are thrown back to the filmmakers' pov.
There is nothing stirring or sufficiently humorous to engage us; the fact that a serving US President is having secret affairs no longer shocks.
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HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (M)
CAST: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Olivia Colman, Samuel West, Elizabeth Marvel, Elizabeth Wilson
PRODUCER: David Aukin, Kevin Loader
DIRECTOR: Roger Michell
SCRIPT: Richard Nelson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lol Crawley
EDITOR: Nicolas Gaster
MUSIC: Jeremy Sams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Simon Bowles
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 28, 2013