A film based on the private diaries and letters of a women who had a very intimate and long affair with US president Franklin D. Roosevelt? Sounds intriguing and a little saucy. Sadly, it’s neither. Review of Hyde Park on Hudson after the jump.
Margaret (Daisy) Suckley (Laura Linney), the sixth cousin of then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) is invited by the president’s mother to visit him at his country estate in Hyde Park, New York. Roosevelt is quite taken by Daisy, and slowly a love affair blossoms. Daisy becomes somewhat of a permanent fixture at Hyde Park, a self-contained world, far away from the desperate situation of many during the depression era.
Daisy’s developing special relationship with the president coincides with one of the most important political visits of the time – that of the young King George IV (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Coleman), who have traveled to America in the hope of gaining support for the World War II, which is nigh on breaking out. We witness the visit, the alcohol-fueled conversations between the nervous King and experienced President; and watch as Daisy struggles to find her place at the formal occasion – she isn’t the wife, or the mother, or a member of staff. Where exactly does she belong?
Hyde Park on Hudson is very much like a pleasant and non-offensive Sunday TV movie where the director has jumped ship and part of the screenplay has gone missing. The film has a beginning that belongs to Daisy, and a middle that belongs to the royal’s visit, but no real end or climax. The problem with this directionless film, is almost nothing happens. There is no real drama or intrigue, and the characters are for the most part unlikeable. Daisy is a flimsy woman with no self-respect, and Roosevelt is a womanising man with power. The film is little more than a series of softly lit country shots involving driving, or dinner parties and whisky in the library.
One can only assume that the cinematographer was so bored by the uninspiring screenplay that he tried to spice the film up with pointless and distracting shots. The camera was constantly on the move, and was often placed in such odd places that you really had no idea which perspective you were viewing the [lack of] action from. The erratic editing only served to further highlight the kooky photography.
The only positive I found in this otherwise lifeless affair was the charming performance of Samuel West as King George IV, or Bertie has he was called by those close to him. Much like Colin Firth did in The King’s Speech, West also does a great job at portraying the unconfident, stuttering king. He gives a tender sadness to the man who struggled so greatly with the position which was thrust upon him. The late night conversation between Bertie and Roosevelt about their weaknesses and their respective positions of power was quite moving; and it was the only scene which had any depth in the entire film.
Hyde Park on Hudson is a film without purpose, and I find it impossible to recommend it to anyone.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Roger Michell
Writer(s): Richard Nelson
Starring: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams
Runtime: 94 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & NZ: March 28 2013; USA: December 7 2012