Hyde Park on Hudson

Dec 26, 2012

A pretty visit.

Hyde Park on Hudson
Grade: B
Director: Roger Michell (Notting Hill)
Screenplay: Richard Nelson (Ethan Frome)
Cast: Bill Murray (Moonrise Kingdom), Laura Linney (Mystic River)
Rating: R
Runtime: 94 min.
by John DeSando

“This goddamned stutter.” King George VI
“What stutter? This goddamned polio.”  FDR

In 1939 when King George VI and the Queen of England (Samuel West and Oliyia Colman) visit the USA, it is no small matter.  This is the first time a reigning monarch has visited here, and England is looking for help as it faces almost certain war with Germany.  But the real drama at Roosevelt’s Hyde Park is between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his distant cousin, Daisy (Laura Linney) with whom he has an affair.

The story (from letters and notes found under Daisy’s bed) is narrated by Daisy with relaxed tone and whimsical attitude because, after all, she finds out she was not his only intimate. The film takes this tone overall, meandering like the two lovers in his convertible to wherever the road will take them.

The central picnic of the film has an unusual weight because eating hot dogs becomes a symbol of the newly forged friendship between the two countries.  And that’s really the major incident of the story, notwithstanding the intrigues of a household with powerful women like Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams), mother Sara (Elizabeth Wilson),  and secretary Missy (Elizabeth Marvel), the last an enduring friend of Daisy in a parallel to the president and king relationship.

Although the scene in the president’s study when he expertly bonds with the king and gives him self-assurance is a keeper,  if  the film had delved more deeply into the love affair, it would have been a more satisfying drama and would have given Murray a chance at another Oscar nomination. As it is, it’s just a pretty visit to Hyde Park on Hudson.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at
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