LAURA LINNEY BILL MURRAY OLIVIA WILLIAMS OLIVIA COLEMAN SAMUEL WEST
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON
Director Roger Michell delivered a fantastic romantic comedy in the 90’s with Notting Hill; it was smart, enlightened and very European. Michell also directed the thriller Changing Lanes as well as 2010’s morning news romance Morning Glory. One of his most ambitious films is Hyde Park on Hudson because of the subject matter and the fact that he has Oscar nominated Bill Murray in a dramatic role. It’s wonderful to see Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Mystic River, You Can Count on Me) back on the big screen since she is having so much success with her television series The Big C. As wonderful as the trailer looked for this film, and as much Oscar bait as it seemed, it’s something much lighter and different than I expected.
Margaret Suckley (Linney) was the fifth cousin of United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Maragaret, unmarried, lived and cared for her aunt near the Hudson River in New York. When her cousin’s pushy mother asked Margaret to come visit with the president on one of his many visits to Hyde Park, she accepted because she would do anything to escape the monotony of her everyday life. Their friendship turned into something much more as she helped him forget the weight of the world. When King George VI (West) and the Queen (Coleman) accept the President’s invitation to visit Hyde Park, no one anticipated how important the eating of a hot dog could be.
Most of the criticisms of this film accuse it of trying to tell too many stories at once, and there are certainly a few interesting ones happening at the same time. The infusion of comedy into this script is the highlight of the picture. My biggest problem with it is that none of the characters are given the sort of scenes I felt like they deserved. For instance, Suckley is a very well mannered, soft spoken woman of the late 30’s, very unlike the women around her. In a moment where she has been betrayed we see a flash of rage come over her, finally standing up for herself, then we realize she is just imagining this brief moment, which would have changed the film for me. Linney typically doesn’t play these types of woman due to her intensity as a performer.
While all the eyes will be on Bill Murray as the president, and he is very charming in the challenging role, but this isn’t the type of awardable Presidential performance like Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln or others in the past. His best scene comes in one single outburst when everyone around him is clamoring for their own agenda and he in a wheel chair shouts “I’m the president!”. The film paints an interesting similarity between FDR and young King George VI, and some of their scenes together are the most memorable. Most of the comedy is when the film is working the best, as the royals are completely confused by the strangeness surrounding this president, picnics, the mistresses and Eleanor’s women friends.
Final Thought – Doesn’t stand out as one of the years best as I thought it would, mildly entertaining.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Visually, Hyde Park on Hudson is very beautiful, with pastoral landscapes and elegant interiors. The acting is a strength, although unlike Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln and Meryl Streep as Julia Child, for instance, I could see Bill Murray in FDR the whole time. On the other hand, it is difficult to find Laura Linney in her character, she is so thoroughly “Daisy”, one of FDR’s several mistresses (named Margaret Stuckley). Daisy is a diffident fifth or sixth cousin of FDR’s, whom his mother sends to Hyde Park to cheer him up on his dark days. Although Daisy is from a “good” family, the depression has affected her family’s fortune, and she currently cares for an aging aunt. She has enough of a background to be able to carry on polite conversation, but as one character notes, “she looks like a governess.” The award-winning Linney pulls off her depiction with grace and skill.
The biggest weakness in the film is that focusing primarily on FDR’s mistresses makes it rather thin. Yes, much is made of the visit of the newly crowned King and Queen England, but that pairing is still not enough to engage the viewer. The story is based on a diary found under the bed of the 100 year-old Daisy after she died. And that is how the film comes across; unless one is into reading other people’s diaries—which are typically rather prosaic—this film is likely to disappoint. Perhaps part of the fault is in the screenplay by Richard Nelson. It is possible that in someone else’s hands, the story could have come alive and been inspiring. This is not only with regard to the romance(s), but the conversations between FDR and the King as well. It is hard to believe that their talks—especially the one occurring late at night—had no more substance than the script implies. I also seriously doubt a President—even in the late 1800’s—would have as much time as the character seems to have in Hyde Park on Hudson. Grade: C-