Friday, December 21, 2012

Hyde Park on Hudson: Movie Review


Through one affair, one perfect friendship is formed at the beautiful Hyde Park on Hudson.
In 1939, King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) made the trek across the ocean to visit American President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) at “Hyde Park on Hudson”. It was the first trip of its kind and tensions were high. First Lady Eleanor and Mother Roosevelt expected perfection, and the Queen (the eventual Queen Mother) also expected perfection. Roosevelt was in no shape to deliver perfection. 2012

Directed by: Roger Michell

Screenplay by: Richard Nelson

Starring: Laura Linney, Bill Murray, Samuel West and Olivia Colman

Laura Linney and Bill Murray from HYDE PARK ON HUDSON,
an Alliance Films release.
Mostly confined to a wheelchair and married to a woman he did not love, Roosevelt reportedly had affairs. The film focuses on one such affair that started just before the King and Queen of England were to arrive. Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (Laura Linney) is FDR’s distant cousin and she is excited for this new turn in her life. She essentially moves into the Hyde Park residence, is convinced of Roosevelt’s need for her, and won’t accept a lesser role in his life. She’s a tough pill to swallow and it’s unfortunate that she’s the main character of the film.

The best characters of the film are easily Franklin Roosevelt and Bertie (the King). Murray transforms Roosevelt into such a humanized version of the esteemed President that he’s always relatable, always likable and always entertaining despite the pedestal that he’s on and despite the pedestal that he probably shouldn't be on. West gives a pitch-perfect, award-deserving portrayal of the humble would-be King providing an understanding confidante for the President. Together they provide the film with an undeniable comedic chemistry and also an honest dynamic that gives it a much needed stability as it tries to find its way as a comedic, dramatic biopic.

(L to R) Bill Murray as FDR, Olivia Colman as Elizabeth,
and Samuel West as Bertie in Roger Michell's historical tale
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, an Alliance Films release. Credit: Nicola Dove.
The other women in the film, notably: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams), Mrs. Roosevelt and Queen Elizabeth, were portrayed with a likely honest, indifferent, and distant air. That approach allows the film to make no judgements about these three strong, independent and forceful women who have all forged their way into history. We only see them through their equally strong husbands (and son) and we can form our own opinions.

True to its name, “Hyde Park on Hudson” has beautiful cinematography. While it’s shot in England rather than New York, it is a suitable substitution, recognizing the source of the inspiration for the name, the architecture and the landscaping of the Presidential family estate in upstate New York.