Hyde Park on Hudson

Directed By: Roger Michell

Starring: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Elizabeth Marvel, Olivia Williams, Elizabeth Wilson, Martin McDougall, and Andrew Havill

Hollywood has made one too many movies with the Great Depression and World War II as the historical backdrop.  Just look to movies like The Way Back, The Debt, and Red Tails for examples over the last couple of years alone.  It's time to make movies about some other era.  More specifically, we can make the same case for the British monarchy.  How many movies need to be made about King George VI and his family with the shadow of WWII hanging over them?  In just the last two years, we've had The King's Speech, W.E., and now Hyde Park on Hudson.  It's time to make movies about other points in history again.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) needs to relax a little.  Europe is becoming embroiled in another war.  The US economy is still quite fragile from the Depression, and King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) are coming to visit FDR’s residence in Hyde Park, New York.  His mother Mrs. Roosevelt (Elizabeth Wilson) has been calling various family members to come and help get the stresses of the presidency off her son's mind.  She eventually convinces Franklin's fifth or sixth cousin Margaret "Daisy" Suckley (Laura Linney) to come visit him in Hyde Park.

It's been years since Daisy has seen her cousin Franklin, and she's a little nervous when she arrives at his home.  Soon however, these fifth cousins become "very good friends" as they are intimate with one another.  Meanwhile, Daisy has a front row seat at history.  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth arrive at Hyde Park and become the first British monarchs to visit the United States.  The only problem is that she's Franklin's “secret”, so she doesn't get to really interact with the king and queen too much.

Hyde Park on Hudson is a film that dies before it gets going.  By the time the film starts to hold your attention, you'll have already given up on it due to a dry opening half.  There's nothing humorous or intriguing in the first half of the movie, and the film simply can't recover from this.  Beyond this, director Roger Michell tries to do too much in too little time.  He touches upon so many historical themes but doesn't delve into them.  Michell tries to cover the Depression, World War II, isolationism, King George VI's speech problems, his controversial ascension to the throne, FDR's polio, and his unique relationship with his wife Eleanor Roosevelt.  That's entirely too much for a 90-minute movie.

Bill Murray gives a decent performance as our 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  He imbues this larger-than-life character with considerable wisdom and undeniable charm.  At the same time, he has no problem showing us this ordinary man with many, many imperfections and infidelities.  As Margaret "Daisy" Suckley, Laura Linney is pretty boring.  This is a film where subtlety is of the essence in every move the actors make, and she brings none to the table.  Her more subdued moments are dull and her more emotional ones are over-acted.  She really drops the ball in this performance.  Consequently, she has very little chemistry with Bill Murray on screen, and their romance suffers.

Though it's too late when it happens, Hyde Park on Hudson does find its funny bone.  Most of the laughs come from FDR's mom or the British monarchs.  As Sara Delano (or Mrs. Roosevelt), Elizabeth Wilson spends a good chunk of the film trying to regulate this special occasion at her residence in Hyde Park.  She's at her best when she's at odds with Bill Murray over little things such as the consumption of cocktails.  As King George and Queen Elizabeth, Samuel West and Olivia Colman provide plenty of laughs as well.  Their aversion to hot dogs, their nosy interest in President Roosevelt's personal life, and their outright disdain for America are fodder for plenty of humor.

Hyde Park on Hudson gets a 0.09% rating.  With a boring opening half and a mixed bag of performances from the cast, this comedy-drama takes a swing at history and misses the mark.  Since cocktails seem to be all the rage in this flick, I recommend you follow suit and grab some scotch for this one.