Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)
In June 1939, the reigning British king (Samuel West) and queen (Olivia Colman) visit President (Bill Murray) and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt (Olivia Williams) at their New York home. War with Germany looms on the horizon, and England desperately needs the president's support. An unforgettable weekend unfolds as FDR tries to juggle international affairs with the complexities of his domestic arrangement, as seen through the eyes of Daisy (Laura Linney), the president's intimate confidant.
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Hyde Park on Hudson Theatrical Review
Our longest serving President has a heyday in Hyde Park on Hudson, an interesting look at Franklin Delano Roosevelt's affairs while in office. The historical, humorous and intriguing story puts our 32nd President in a rather awkward situation derived from an excerpt of the diary of his cousin Daisy. A questionable motive for the piece of entertainment, yet the film's cast puts on an admirable show.
Taking place north of New York City in an area called Hyde Park, the home estate of his mother that covers 3 to four miles on the Hudson River, this small voyeuristic glance into Roosevelt's private life came to light from his cousin Margaret (Daisy) Suckley's diary. The snippet points out Roosevelt's erotic lifestyle and his historical meeting with the stuttering King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Britain at the estate.
It's 1939 and FDR has been in office for six years. He's succeeded in rising from the decimation caused by the US depression and we find him living at his mother's cottage where he has taken residence. It's sort of a respite and recovery period for Franklin and he's been making interesting use of his private time.
FDR summons his cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) to visit him at the estate as a diversion from the other women surrounding him, his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams), mother Sara (Elizabeth Wilson), and his personal secretary Missy (Elizabeth Marvel). At first just a companion of sorts, Daisy finds herself captivated by the iconic figure, one of the most powerful men in the world. As time goes on she becomes helpful, an amusement, a minder, and then a sexual object to FDR.
The story continues delving somewhat into the relationships he has with the other three women, but centers mainly on Daisy. When he gets notice that the King and Queen of England have an urgent need to meet with him at the estate, Franklin accepts leading to some decisions that challenge Daisy, a huge option that will affect the future of the USA and difficult personal choices that will dampen the hearts of his women.
The acting in Hyde Park on Hudson can only be described as brilliant. The film provides a stage for the fine actors, especially Murray and Linney who have the chemistry, posh and personality down pat of their characters. Murray takes on make-up, dons period piece suits, sports a cigarette holder, drinks heavily and provides the walk of the crippled man who fought the adversity to become the 32nd President of the United States. At times he puts on an aloof personality so strong that even striking a smile can put a situation on hold. His commanding stare at times makes FDR look controlling; evident in several scenes where the President needs to look strong and demanding.
Linney shows her stuff as the shy woman who's astonished at the opportunity of meeting the President of the United States. Timid and respectful she approaches FDR with hesitation and kindness, becomes protective, and then when her emotions take over she succumbs to an affair. There's never a moment that Linney's Daisy isn't realistic or unemotional as the new ‘hobby' in Roosevelt's life. She moves through each frame with a beseeching charm, alluring and decisive in her role.
The downside comes with a combination of things including a secondary story that doesn't get fleshed out as well as it should due to the central adultery theme. During the film many things get brought to bear involving FDR's affair with relatives and an employee. Each of these measures works well together, but adding the visit of the King and Queen becomes a distraction to the film. Even though it's included to make the point of Roosevelt's pain and struggle with his life long illness, the silly private meeting with the stuttering King George VI only distracts from the real meat of the story.
Hyde Park on the Hudson has been rated R by the MPAA for brief sexuality. The film also includes abusive drinking and smoking.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Point well taken, but was it necessary to make a film about it.? C )
-- John Delia
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