Review: 'Hyde Park on Hudson'
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, January 04, 2013
1/04/13 at 4:48 AM
"Hyde Park on Hudson" feels something like the anti-"Lincoln," with a film story centered on one of our most idealized presidents - Franklin D. Roosevelt - but told in a tawdry fashion for comedic effect.
The movie's script is both bold - presenting FDR as a womanizer and his wife Eleanor as bisexual, with no hint of fiction - and odd, with its whimsy tailored to Bill Murray's strengths as he portrays our 32nd president.
That style also serves to humanize the man, with Murray portraying him as a droll wit and appearing to greatly enjoy mimicking FDR's look, voice and that teeth-clenching grin he had when biting down on his cigarette holder.
‘HYDE PARK ON HUDSON’
Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel
West, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams
1 hour, 34 minutes
R (brief sexuality)
(on a scale of zero to four
The story introduces us to his cousin, Daisy, who is distant in relations but close in proximity to Hyde Park on Hudson, the upstate New York country home of the president's family that serves as FDR's retreat in those times that he can escape Washington.
For a man under enormous stress considering the time and the world's state of affairs - 1939, with Germany advancing through Europe - Hyde Park is a positively pastoral place where Daisy serves the president as confidante ("He said I helped him forget the weight of the world") and as the target of his latest personal affections.
As Daisy, Laura Linney never really brings the character into her own, even when she is interacting with Eleanor (Olivia Williams), who knows all of her husband's side women well and abides them because, well, she has her own women friends.
Daisy must be the emotional core of the picture, and Linney can't pull that off, but most of the fault lies with a script that forces her to reveal her most intimate thoughts through narration while she walks around with an impish smile for the whole film.
Director Roger Michell more successfully captured the randy comedy he's looking for here in "Venus" with Peter O'Toole in 2006, from the standpoint of pure laughs, poignant moments and comedic moral ambiguities, but "Hyde Park on Hudson" does have its moments.
The film's triumph is in the based-on-true-events visit by England's and his queen to the country home. This culture-clash comedy, with royalty staying in a tiny bedroom and being the guests of honor at a picnic with hot dogs as the main course, is quite amusingly staged as well as acted.
As the king and queen (this would be the couple from "The King's Speech," with King George's stutter intact), Samuel West and Olivia Colman show spot-on timing as they ponder whether they are being made the butt of a joke with all these informalities, especially at a time when the king has come to ask for advice and future help from the U.S. in advance of World War II.
The importance of these events, mixed with the sex comedy nature of the film, often gives "Hyde Park on Hudson" an uneven feel. I was never sure how important I was supposed to have believed these events to have been in the grand scheme of Anglo-American relations.
But I could always find charm in Murray's performance, and in the door-slamming farce that was the president, the first lady, the king, the queen, the president's mother and his many mistresses inside one residence out in the country.
Nobody's perfect - not even the only man we elected to four terms in the Oval Office.
Original Print Headline: Odd mix: History, sex comedy
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
Bill Murray stars as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Roger Michell's historical tale "Hyde Park on Hudson." Walmark Films/Courtesy
Olivia Williams (left) and Laura Linney star with Bill Murray.