Bill Murray is scarily commanding as Franklin Roosevelt, shown off in the Hyde Park on the Hudson trailer. Even though he has proven his dramatic chops on more than one occasion, it is still with great joy we witness his turn as one of our country's most popular presidents. During the film, Roosevelt is navigating numerous local and global crises that would have buried anyone with less inner strength. Since the movie began shooting in Britain, Oscar buzz has followed not just the movie's lead, but the entire film. Does it deliver on its promise?
Our Hyde Park on the Hudson review reports that it tries valiantly. But it lands in the arena of a melodramatic take on a valiant leader instead of a historic-based look at what was one of the most important weekends in U.S.-British relations history. One could easily argue that is because of the film's subject. Yes, this is an FDR story, but the film is truly more about Daisy (Laura Linney).
Hyde Park on the Hudson is not only the title of the film, it is also the name of Roosevelt's estate. Daisy, a distant cousin of Roosevelt, was summoned to the upstate New York locale to keep Franklin company. Unbeknownst to Linney's character, she would bear witness to the King and Queen of England's historic visit and a weekend where two of the most powerful couples in the world would find more in common than previously imagined.
An affair is more than hinted at between FDR and Daisy, and it becomes very clear that she completely adores him. While Eleanor Roosevelt was busy with her work as First Lady and the issues she felt passionate about championing, the president was left to his work... often while Daisy doted on him.
It's not the platonic or not-so-platonic relationship that Hyde Park on the Hudson suffers under, for that is well documented. But, we feel filmmakers missed an opportunity. That was the chance to let the world know that this tight friendship we now enjoy with Great Britain was not always so. From the Revolutionary War through the weekend that King George VI (Bertie) and Queen Elizabeth visited Roosevelt, it could be argued the two nations were rather frigid to one another. In a 48-hour period, that relationship thawed as two men would grow to appreciate each other and thus, their nations would follow.
The weekend would become known as the hot dog summit as is delightfully chronicled in the film when the two leaders nosh at a typical American barbeque that humanizes the previously seen as stiff king. It isn't the fault of Hyde Park on the Hudson, but the film too suffers from the fresh in our collective memory of the performance of Colin Firth as George VI in The King's Speech. This Bertie has just taken the throne and has a country questioning his leadership. And this takes place before he got vocal coaching. Samuel West does a terrific job with the role, but it's hard to compete with an Oscar-winning performance that is still so close in people's minds.
Overall, Hyde Park on the Hudson should be seen for the history and the stellar performances by its cast, especially Bill Murray. The acting feels like it is out of Masterpiece Theatre -- unfortunately the rest of the film feels more like a soap opera.