Hyde Park on Hudson
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 24th March 2013
Whatever I might say, people will flock to this film on two grounds: first, it has Bill Murray playing President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and for many viewers Murray can do no wrong; and secondly, it’s being heralded as “this year’s The King’s Speech”. Simply because the same character from that film, poor beleaguered Bertie (King George) is portrayed here. Well, unfortunately these purported drawcards aren’t enough.
To be fair, the film boasts an all-star cast of truly wonderful actors – Olivia Williams excels as the feisty and possibly sapphic Eleanor Roosevelt, delivering drawled barbs with a wry smile. Samuel West and Olivia Colman have great fun as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), visiting the President’s estate in New York when both countries know they are on the brink of WWII and thus need one another’s support.
Purely as a snapshot of an historical moment, this might have been rather fun – forcing the world’s most famous Royals to eat hot-dogs, and having them sleep in a room wallpapered with anti-British cartoons. The avuncular relationship between President and King even verges on touching.
But this story actually belongs to Daisy, a distant cousin of FDR who becomes close to the President and had the forethought to keep a diary. Laura Linney is a traditionally great actress, but her voiceover (no doubt taken directly from the pages of Daisy’s awfully prosaic account) weighs down a film deadened by terrible pacing and a muddled tone. Daisy’s induction into the President’s harem feels cheap and her vapid response to everything leaves you with literally no one to care about.
Director Roger Michell did well with Enduring Love and even Notting Hill but seems to have become complacent, perhaps feeling he could leave his starry cast to do all the work. It is a shame therefore that this wealth has been squandered.