Hyde Park on Hudson | Movie review
Bill Murray’s FDR imitation makes for inadequate Oscar bait.
Apparently the new shortcut to an Oscar is to pick a moment in the life of George VI, then turn it into a film. Piggybacking off the Best Picture–winning The King’s Speech, Hyde Park on Hudson memorializes the first visit of any reigning British monarch to the U.S.: a 1939 retreat to FDR’s upstate New York residence. The king hopes the meeting will provide informal assurance of America’s intention to help Britain in the war. Yet even with such stakes, Hyde Park on Hudson betrays little interest in world-historic drama—or, for that matter, the President himself. The movie is narrated by Roosevelt’s distant cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (Laura Linney), whom historians have speculated was his lover. The film leaves little doubt: Mere minutes in, Daisy services her suitor with a hand job in the grandma-scandalizing scene of the year.
Beginning with Daisy’s Great Depression for Dummies voiceover (“Everyone knew someone who couldn’t find a job”), Hyde Park on Hudson shows signs of having been insufficiently dramatized. It’s based on a BBC radio play, and major scenes—such as Roosevelt (a tic-prone Bill Murray) meeting Bertie (Samuel West)—are drowned out with music rather than talked through. The film also suffers from an inconsistent POV, since Daisy, as Roosevelt’s mistress, necessarily couldn’t be present for major events. There are glimpses of an interesting take on politics and privacy, as when Murray’s rascally FDR, noting that no one ever mentions his polio, reassures the stammering king: “That’s not what they’re looking for when they look to us.” But are voters looking for a movie that regards King George eating a hot dog as high drama?