Hyde Park on Hudson
Starring Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Colman, Samuel West,
Director Roger Michell delivered a fantastic romantic comedy in the 90’s with Notting Hill; it was smart, enlightened and very European. Michell also directed the thriller Changing Lanes as well as 2010’s morning news romance Morning Glory. One of his most ambitious films is Hyde Park on Hudson because of the subject matter and the fact that he has Oscar nominated Bill Murray in a dramatic role. It’s wonderful to see Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Mystic River, You Can Count on Me) back on the big screen since she is having so much success with her television series The Big C. As wonderful as the trailer looked for this film, and as much Oscar bait as it seemed, it’s something much lighter and different than I expected.
Margaret Suckley (Linney) was the fifth cousin of United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Maragaret, unmarried, lived and cared for her aunt near the Hudson River in New York. When her cousin’s pushy mother asked Margaret to come visit with the president on one of his many visits to Hyde Park, she accepted because she would do anything to escape the monotony of her everyday life. Their friendship turned into something much more as she helped him forget the weight of the world. When King George VI (West) and the Queen (Coleman) accept the President’s invitation to visit Hyde Park, no one anticipated how important the eating of a hot dog could be.
The infusion of comedy into this script is the highlight of the picture.
Most of the criticisms of this film accuse it of trying to tell too many stories at once, and there are certainly a few interesting ones happening at the same time. The infusion of comedy into this script is the highlight of the picture. My biggest problem with it is that none of the characters are given the sort of scenes I felt like they deserved. For instance, Suckley is a very well mannered, soft spoken woman of the late 30’s, very unlike the women around her. In a moment where she has been betrayed we see a flash of rage come over her, finally standing up for herself, then we realize she is just imagining this brief moment, which would have changed the film for me. Linney typically doesn’t play these types of woman due to her intensity as a performer.
While all the eyes will be on Bill Murray as the president, and he is very charming in the challenging role, but this isn’t the type of awardable Presidential performance like Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln or others in the past. His best scene comes in one single outburst when everyone around him is clamoring for their own agenda and he in a wheel chair shouts “I’m the president!”. The film paints an interesting similarity between FDR and young King George VI, and some of their scenes together are the most memorable. Most of the comedy is when the film is working the best, as the royals are completely confused by the strangeness surrounding this president, picnics, the mistresses and Eleanor’s women friends.
Doesn’t stand out as one of the years best as I thought it would, mildly entertaining.