[Review] – Hyde Park On Hudson

12 Dec

Hyde Park on Hudson

Title: Hyde Park on Hudson
Year: 2012
Director: Roger Michell
Writer: Richard Nelson
Starring: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams
MPAA Rating: R, brief sexuality
Runtime: 95 min
IMDb Rating: 5.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 40%
Metacritic: 56

Once upon a time people were looking at Hyde Park on Hudson as one of the films to be reckoned with this coming awards season. After all, it was a biopic of Franklin D. Roosevelt focussing on the first visit ever of British monarchs to the U.S. meant to bolster American support for the British side on the eve of World War II. Not to mention that the visiting royalty were King George IV and the Queen Consort Elizabeth, the couple at the center of The King’s Speech, which had of course won Best Picture a couple of years ago.

Add that Oscar-baity premise with the people involved in this one and it seemed fool-proof. Bill Murray was in as FDR, Laura Linney was set to play his cousin and eventual mistress, Olivia Williams was Eleanor Roosevelt, Samuel West and Olivia Colman were the British royalty. Yet this film ultimately fails, it does absolutely nothing of real interest with such a potentially juicy story and, most shamefully, it wastes a performance from Mr. Murray that’s really quite great and that nearly had me giving this one a recommending grade.

This seriously could have been quite a good movie if you think about it. You had well-known figures you’d like to know more of, you had a historic visit of British monarchy in the midst of global war, and you had a famous U.S. President trying to balance those international affairs with an equally tumultuous domestic life all during a weekend at his Hyde Park on Hudson estate in upstate New York. Yet there’s never any real energy to the proceedings and it becomes kind of dull and truly uninterested in really letting us into the real complexities that were surely at hand. This is what you call a genuine missed opportunity, a movie that had all the elements to make a prestige hit and didn’t know how to properly use them.

It kind of reminded me of Sacha Gervasi‘s Hitchcock, a better film I saw just over a week ago, in that here we had films about notorious figures and the chance to get a glimpse into their bedrooms and figure out their inner demos. And yet in both cases we had films that were so thoroughly unambitious, though to be fair Hitchcock at least tried to do something interesting by instead focussing on the director’s wife. This one kind of goes the same way, actually, focussing on the cousin-turned-mistress, but it isn’t trying to do anything interesting with really, it’s just comfortable being aimlessly there.

What’s worse is that the thing we’re supposed to really care about here is the stuff between Roosevelt and Daisy Suckling, the cousin played by Ms. Linney. You’re supposed to think “OMG, the President had an affair with his cousin!” even though there’s no real historic evidence to believe they had more than a (still “eww, wrong”) flirtation. Yet the way this movie plays it out you really couldn’t care less about it all. Yes, there’s a hand job in a car that comes seriously out of the blue, and it’s supposed to be this big moment, but I thought it was just quite poorly executed.

The only thing of mild entertainment and interest here is the royal visit to be honest. Director Roger Michell, who most recently directed Morning Glory, has a lot of fun with it (and Ms. Colman and Mr. West do a solid job with their performances) plus we as an audience can also have our fun with it because, thanks to Tom Hooper‘s 2010 film, we know a lot about these characters and it adds to this whole thing. But maybe that’s another problem, the fun we have with these characters come more from a totally unrelated movie than it does from watching these two go about eating hot dogs in order to humanize themselves to the American people.

The biggest problem is that, as good as Mr. Murray’s performance is, Richard Nelson does a bad job at writing such an iconic man. It’s horribly underwritten and we don’t get to have much context about this man and his human traits. Mr. Murray does his best to get a real character come out of that, and because he’s such an awesome and charming actor there are times when we really seem to understand what lies beneath the lively President, but it never comes fully through. That it never comes fully through is probably because this movie, like Hitchcock, uses Daisy more than it does Roosevelt.

That vagueness we get from Roosevelt really does come, I think, from the fact that this is all from Daisy’s point of view, including a wholly unnecessary voice over. The fact that an actress as talented as Laura Linney accepted this gig is beyond me, as Daisy’s portrayed as this insanely uninteresting person without a hint of intelligence or sense of will or charm, the kind of character that’s just there, the one you neither care for nor hate. When that character is one of the film’s main ones and the one that narrates the whole thing you know it’s a lost battle.

I’m just so, so disappointed by this movie. It probably would have been an infinitely better movie without the Daisy character, had it just focussed on FDR and his wife, who’s played with some spunk by Olivia Williams, and the royal visit. And if you think this, like many films about politicians, will try to make some statement about today’s politics, you’re dead wrong. No, Hyde Park on Hudson isn’t even concerned with that. It’s concerned with simple characters and hot dogs and hand jobs.

Grade: C

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2 Responses to “[Review] – Hyde Park On Hudson”

  1. youjivinmeturkey December 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Wait…
    …So…
    …What You’re Saying Is There’s More To Life Than Hot-Dogs And Hand-Jobs?!?!
    Pfft.
    Since When?!?!?!
    I Didn’t Get The Memo…
    …AGAIN! 😦
    😉
    -B.

  2. insiderhedge December 12, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    Reblogged this on Parrot Reviews.

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