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Hyde Park on Hudson is no mixed bag, as some may have you think. Bill
Murray turns in a perfectly mannered, whimsical performance as FDR and
is very ably supported by an award-worthy cast that includes Laura
Linney and Olivia Williams. It's funny, yes, but it's not a laugh riot,
nor is it meant to be. It's a postcard look at a lost time, the first
visit of an English monarch to a sitting U.S. president, dappled with a
touch of uncertain, unlikely, and illicit romance.
It's a few years before The Big One, WWII, but there's a storm a-brewing in Europe. Everyone knows it, but relations between the U.S. and England have been strained, something about revolting and then fighting in the War of 1812. Ancient history to some but not all, it would seem. At any rate, King George VI and Queen Consort Elizabeth (Samuel West and Olivia Coleman, respectively) travel to America to visit Roosevelt with the intention of securing his support for the upcoming war. But rather than host them in stuffy Washington, DC, FDR (contrary to the real visit) invites his royal guests to his home away from home, Springwood, a stately manor in upstate New York. It happens to be on the Hudson River, or near it, in case the title has tripped you up.
Now, FDR was quite an unusual president. He was the last to serve more than two terms, as the Constitution was amended later. Also, he had polio, which he had contracted as a child. The funny thing is this - people went to great lengths to pretend nothing was wrong with Roosevelt's legs whatsoever. The Emperor had no clothes. Even the press were complicit, gamely waiting for the president to be lowered into the back of a convertible before taking their pictures and asking their questions. Can you imagine that today? The slightest limp by a leader seems to imply a lack of leadership in the minds of some.
And so it was at the time, only not. The nation turned its eyes to Roosevelt as a resolute, optimistic leader, a man who could help them finally rid themselves of that awful Depression, and so they gladly ignore whatever shortcomings he may have. The king of England, meanwhile, is in a similar situation. He is the same George depicted in The King's Speech - you know, the one about the king who stuttered? FDR, who is much older, is not as self conscious about his malady as he used to be, whereas poor George is practically frozen by his own. Now, recall that the king and queen are visiting to gain the support of America; FDR already knows this. He could easily just issue a statement to the effect that the USA would help England in any way it could, but he chooses to host royalty instead. He wishes to meet the man beneath the crown, and he wishes to size him up.
Enter into the fray a quite-distant cousin of FDR, a Daisy Stuckley (Linney), who narrates the story. Daisy is introduced to the president, and somehow they find a connection. Daisy, like the arriving king, is also unsure of herself, a bit of an ugly duckling among the glamor of the president's residence. They find in each other a kindred spirit. Franklin is more or less estranged from his saintly wife Eleanor at this point (they live in separate houses in New York!), and although he cannot walk, he does enjoy him some female company.
But what is this story really about, anyway? It depends on your own perspective. Some will see this as a docudrama reflecting the meeting of two leaders (and their wives); some will see it as a comedy, an intelligent, subtle comedy with a barely smirking Bill Murray. Others still will find romance in almost every scene, no matter who the players, no matter where the setting.
Murray deserves an Oscar nomination here, and perhaps the Academy will make up for their Lost in Translation snub. Linney does as well; her Daisy never undergoes a sudden transformation into a woman with a real backbone. She seems sad much of the time, working in the White House with tightened lips. Her life appears joyless; that is, until she has some alone time with Franklin, whence a window to a sunnier day slowly opens.
Hyde Park on Hudson is a gorgeous movie with a splendid, bemused, and convincing performance by Bill Murray as our 32nd president and endearing, exhilarating role for Laura Linney. Each should be richly rewarded come award time.
I don't get all the negativity directed at this film. I thought it was
charming and witty. History is rarely so much fun.
The story is simple enough. On the eve of World War II King George VI and his wife journey to the US to see President Roosevelt at his family's Hyde Park retreat hoping to secure American support against Nazi Germany. The FDR we see here isn't the Great Depression/war leader he's a weary man battling polio and trying to find solace in relationships with a distant cousin among others.
Bill Murray gives an amazing performance humanizing the 32nd president an avid stamp collector who during this period when another European war appeared inevitable was more likely to find himself seeking peaceful coexistence between his dominating mother and estranged wife, Eleanor. Laura Linney is Margaret Suckley an unassuming, humble cousin who becomes a regular visitor to the retreat at the time of the royal visit. Samuel West and Olivia Colman are a convincing King and Queen making the first visit in history to the US by a British monarch. I found "Hyde Park On the Hudson" a delightful little film and the 95 minutes flew by leaving me wishing for more.
By Marie Cinquino www.thatsmye.com
On the surface, Hyde Park on Hudson is about Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and one of his mistresses, his far removed cousin Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney), who is our narrator. We are to assume that the New Deal is underway, and FDR is under much stress awaiting the visit of the King and Queen of England;it is the first time British Royalty have traveled to the United States to meet with American politicians. Margaret's company has been requested to help the President deal with his tension and to give him an excuse to get out of his office and relax. However, as the movie progresses, Margaret's presence and character becomes increasingly less important and interesting. Richard Nelson's writing feels unorganized, and quickly the relationship between FDR and King George VI (Samuel West) seems to become the focal point. As the characters develop and the drama unfolds, it becomes clear the only real constant theme here is the shedding of false ideas about others and the self.
I thought seeing Bill Murray as FDR would be distracting, but he was believable and lovable. The relationship he creates with King George VI was a display of the best writing and acting in the whole film. The two stay up late talking, sharing with one another what they feel is expected of them by their families, their countries, and themselves. They wind up drinking and comparing their physical imperfections, polio and stuttering. It seems to be a profound moment in which they become comfortable with one another, themselves, and the unity between their countries. From this point on, all of the relationships become more real and approachable. The King and Queen endure a sleepless night lighting one another's cigarettes, the President is shown to be an average man in many ways (although brilliant), and Margret's fantastic ideas about her place in the presidents life are boiled down to a much more realistic perspective.
Although some relationships between characters are enjoyable, the writing that takes us there is shaky. Margaret is introduced so strongly, and we are convinced she will play an important role, but she seems to disappear as soon as another plot point comes along. Her character seemed more of a cheap vessel to create momentum than an actual developed character. She becomes less interesting than every other character, and I end up wishing to see more of Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams) and the Queen (Olivia Colman). While the writing often feels loosely knit, the camera work is never disappointing. The scenery is beautiful and simple. It reflects these characters that are learning about themselves. It is bare bones and lovely.
Hyde Park on Hudson had its moments. I liked seeing King George VI eat hotdogs, the Queen smoke cigarettes, and FDR go swimming in a turn of the century bathing suit. However this film could have been so much better. It felt like Nelson forgot about his own plot. The gaps he left were huge and left me wondering why there were so many lose ends. The script needs to be beefed up and full cooked. There's still pink in this meat.
Hyde Park on Hudson might just as well have been titled "What happens
at Hyde Park Stays at Hyde Park." We'd be glad if it did because, based
on this movie, nothing of any real interest really happened there
despite the presence of FDR, Eleanor, and The King and Queen of
England. Here we have four of the most fascinating people of the 20th
century in the same place at a time when storm clouds of Nazi
aggression were about to burst and the screenplay focuses on FDR's
infidelity and the Queen's concern over a picnic where she will be
forced to eat hot dogs.
The movie takes place in the summer of 1939, when Franklin Roosevelt (Bill Murray) was spending some time at his country estate at Hyde Park. The movie deals with two events that took place that summer. First was FDR's intimate relationship with Margaret "Daisy" Stuckley (Laura Linney), his sixth cousin, who would become his mistress. The details of their relationship take place in long shots and quiet passages of dialogue that seem muted as if they simply don't have anything to say to one another. The heat in their attraction comes from their mutual admiration over get this his stamp collection. How he used this as an aphrodisiac to attract women is a question the movie doesn't really know how to answer, all you can deduce is that intimacy that grows out of admiration over stamps is about as exciting as it sounds.
The other story deals with a visit to Hyde Park by King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Coleman). No British monarch had ever visited America before. They are the pillars of England at a moment when Hitler is about to steamroll over much of Europe, and his Majesty has come west to speak with The President about an alliance that would overthrow the Fuehrer. Yet the movie leaves that important issue around the edges of the movie. Except for one effective scene between The President and The King, in which they both understand that they have physical ailments that they are trying to hide (one is disabled by polio, and the other has a stuttering problem), the movie has no real interest in their relationship. It is understood that America came to Britain's aid and the story of the king and queen is mostly concentrated on their puzzlement with brutish American customs, not just the aforementioned hot dogs, but the picnic and the Native American dancers that will be performing therein.
The story of the king and queen doesn't work because it doesn't move beyond their initial shock over American customs. The story of FDR's infidelity doesn't work because we simply don't care. Part of the problem is Daisy herself. She is our point of view in the film but she's such a blank slate that we have no foothold in her story. Laura Linney is a fine actress but she stands at a distance from FDR, admiring him but hardly saying a word except in narration. That narration, by the way, is so lazy, quiet and tired that it comes off like a particularly dull audio book. Roosevelt's relationship with Eleanor is nearly non-existence. It is known that after The President's relationship with is secretary two decades earlier, she had chosen to be his wife in name only, but where is the tension between them. Olivia Williams occupies the role of Eleanor not as a supporting character but almost as a fixture of the set.
To be fair, the performance by Bill Murray isn't bad. He is an unusual choice for this role and it is good to see him take such a risk, but you never feel that you're in the presence of the 32nd President. Murray is a good actor and he captures some of FDR's wit but he doesn't have the towering presence that made him such an American icon. This is a tiny movie, a meager effort that looks great but doesn't really go anywhere. You don't learn anything and there is no sense that you are getting a behind-the-curtain look at anything but really pretty pictures.
** (of four)
Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)
*** (out of 4)
With the King and Queen coming to America for the first time, FDR (Bill Murray) asks his fifth cousin (Laura Linney) to spend some time with him and soon the two become quite close in many ways. HYDE PARK ON HUDSON seems to be getting mostly mixed reviews and that's easy to see why. I think most people will agree that the performances are terrific but it seems like most people, myself included, are caught up with the story or lack of one if you will. What story that is here seems to be all over the place as the film never seems to fully know what it's about. Is it about the relationship between FDR and his cousin? Is it about all the dirty stuff FDR was doing? Is it just a slice-of-pie comedy? Is the main focus the upcoming war? Or is the main focus on whether or not the King will actually eat a hot dog? All of this stuff takes place here and as I said, none of it really gets the spotlight. The film remains very entertaining thanks in large part to the performances but one can't help but wonder what this film would have been like with a stronger, more focused story. With that said, Murray turns in another wonderful performance and I think the best thing that I can say is that when you watch the film you feel as if you're watching the real FDR. Not for a single second do you just see Murray and think of him as an actor doing a performance. Linney doesn't appear to be getting the credit she deserves but her quiet character contains some strong emotion thanks to the actress. Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams and Elizabeth Wilson are also extremely strong in their roles. Director Roger Michell perfectly nails the time as the look of the film is quite compelling and authentic. Another major plus is some great song selection scattered throughout the picture. HYDE PARK ON HUDSON isn't the grand slam many people were expecting but there's still enough here to make it worth viewing.
In 1939, King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia
Colman) made the trek across the ocean to visit American President
Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) at "Hyde Park on Hudson". It was
the first trip of its kind and tensions were high. First Lady Eleanor
and Mother Roosevelt expected perfection, and the Queen (the eventual
Queen Mother) also expected perfection. Roosevelt was in no shape to
Mostly confined to a wheelchair and married to a woman he did not love, Roosevelt reportedly had affairs. The film focuses on one such affair that started just before the King and Queen of England were to arrive. Margaret "Daisy" Suckley (Laura Linney) is FDR's distant cousin and she is excited for this new turn in her life. She essentially moves into the Hyde Park residence, is convinced of Roosevelt's need for her, and won't accept a lesser role in his life. She's a tough pill to swallow and it's unfortunate that she's the main character of the film.
The best characters of the film are easily Franklin Roosevelt and Bertie (the King). Murray transforms Roosevelt into such a humanized version of the esteemed President that he's always relatable, always likable and always entertaining despite the pedestal that he's on and despite the pedestal that he probably shouldn't be on. West gives a pitch-perfect, award-deserving portrayal of the humble would-be King providing an understanding confidante for the President. Together they provide the film with an undeniable comedic chemistry and also an honest dynamic that gives it a much needed stability as it tries to find its way as a comedic, dramatic biopic.
The other women in the film, notably: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams), Mrs. Roosevelt and Queen Elizabeth, were portrayed with a likely honest, indifferent, and distant air. That approach allows the film to make no judgements about these three strong, independent and forceful women who have all forged their way into history. We only see them through their equally strong husbands (and son) and we can form our own opinions.
True to its name, "Hyde Park on Hudson" has beautiful cinematography. While it's shot in England rather than New York, it is a suitable substitution, recognizing the source of the inspiration for the name, the architecture and the landscaping of the Presidential family estate in upstate New York.
Bill Murray is a comedy LEGEND and an American favorite. Everyone just
about has a favorite Bill Murray moment or movie. Whats not to like he
has a style that is truly his own and a swagger that draws you despite
not being the type that craves the labels. While always being a good
actor it's only in the last 15 or so years that people have stood up
and taken notice that he can act beyond his comedic roots. With a few
roles several years ago that showed this such as Where The Buffalo Roam
in which he portrayed Hunter S. Thompson and 1984's The Razor's Edge he
primarily stuck with his comedic roots, and why not it had served him
so well for so long. in 1998 he made Rushmore with visionary director
Wes Anderson and suddenly he wasn't Carl Spackler or Dr. Peter Venkman
anymore, he was an actor.
In 2004 he was honored with his first Academy Award nomination for his outstanding performance in Lost In Translation for which he was visibly disappointed that he was the recipient. 9 years later he just may be poised for his second Oscar nomination for his unbelievable portrayal of former president Franklin D. Roosevelt. A most unlikely choice on the film maker behalf, but one that will prove to be a proud choice. The film is Hyde Park On Hudson with whom he co-stars along side the always great Laura Linney.
The story is one of an affair the president had with an extremely distant cousin that carried on for years when he would retreat to Hyde Park, NY of which he was quite fond of doing much of his work from there. During the early stages of the affair a monumental occasion occurred when the new king of England became the first king to visit American soil in history. King George VI affectionately known as Bertie, who was recently portrayed by Academy Award winner Colin Firth in The Kings Speech, was very new to his position and felt it best to visit the US and the president to keep up relations. Over a weekend in Hyde Park the king and president formed a very special relationship that proved vital as WWII would shortly break out a few weeks later.
What is most intriguing was that you had to fine men in positions of great power that at the same time had great flaws, Bertie with his stutter and Roosevelt with his partial paralysis. The film has a fine moment when the two converse late one night and the president clearly seems to instill a great confidence in the king when they both realize many similarities in each other.
Over the same weekend the president's affair with his cousin, Daisy quickly becomes threatened and almost comes to a complete halt.
The film is a fine story and well told but it's not without rhythmic issues and has several slow moments. It is without question carried on the shoulders of Murray's performance. It's not a story that has you drawn in within seconds and has some difficulty keeping you there. It is though a good movie that deserves to be soon for Murray alone.
Murray shows the often unknown and unseen humorous side the president Roosevelt and does it with great perfection. His portrayal is one of the great performances of a historical figure in recent years. The one flaw in his award chances may be he happens to be against another fine actor playing an iconic president in Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. It's a story every years where a deserving actor comes away empty handed because someone just happens to be on another level.
Murray's day will come at some point. His commitment to taking great roles and being someone different every time only proves that. Unfortunately we will have to wait a little longer. Loveyourmovies.com
"Hyde Park on Hudson" might forever be known as that other film in 2012
featuring a U.S. president if anyone remembers it at all. Both films
are entirely different portrayals, namely in the scope of both the
stories they tell and the span of time in which they take place, but
only one of them is giddy over being a period piece, and it's not
Taking in place in 1939 prior the U.S. committing to what would become World War II, "Hudson" is a film mostly content with being pretty, excited by putting actors in period clothes who pretend to be world leaders. None of these performances are bad, (quite the opposite in fact) but the little piece of history they're reenacting lacks any bit of import.
Bill Murray as Franklin Roosevelt isn't even the center of the film. Instead it's our narrator, Daisy (Laura Linney), FDR's distant cousin, whose diary and memoirs Richard Nelson used to craft the screenplay. She relays a story of romance, but one that's modest and presumed, occurring up to and during the arrival of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth from England to Hyde Park on Hudson, home of FDR's mother and his home away from Washington.
The film invests a lot in presenting FDR in such a casual manner, but this notion of candid access is hardly thrilling, either because the man has been dead for almost 70 years, or because it barely shows him in the context of being president just a man who people treat with great respect and admiration who is surrounded by a lot of people all the time. Any American who studied the president in school knows about his polio and how he was able to keep the country oblivious to it with cooperation from the press, so that's hardly a hook either.
Murray is certainly an unusual but inspired choice. Playing a light-hearted and relaxed FDR makes sense for him, though if tested it would be wrong to doubt his capability to command attention in the role. The film doesn't seem too interested in digging into his psyche, just peeling back the curtain enough to show a man who longed for the affections of women and whose outlook and world view was different from other people in positions of power during his time.
Linney is such a wasted talent as the meek and naive Daisy. Although she narrates throughout, she disappears in stretches, even after the script establishes very clearly that this is her story. She doesn't factor into the conflict until late, and that's if you can consider it conflict. Normally, choosing not to embellish the details of an alleged affair in melodramatic Hollywood fashion would be worthy of much commendation, but the details of their relationship are so vague and the process by which Daisy comes to have feelings for FDR and vice-versa so ambiguous that you feel nothing toward either of them.
The arrival of King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) in Hyde Park provides the film a pair of interesting characters and ultimately something to happen in what would otherwise be a purposeless portrait of a president and his sometimes-lover cousin. George has just assumed power after his brother abdicated the throne and they come to America desperate to forge a partnership between England and the U.S.
Therein could be the conflict at the heart of "Hudson," but the film maintains its light and often jocular tone instead, despite a footnote suggesting the events depicted were crucial to the special relationship between the countries. In essence, much stock is put into the symbol of King George biting into a hot dog.
"Hyde Park on Hudson" is a pleasant film, but it presumes to be interesting on the basis that it depicts famous political figures and exposes a beloved president's unflattering personal life. Maybe that's an exaggerated assumption of the film's intent, but it doesn't tell a story of any kind as far as plot structure goes. It's a great advertisement for a film audiences would prefer to see about who FDR really was, but in and of itself, it fails to offer any acute insight.
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Hyde Park on Hudson is a film that wishes to be seriously esteemed and
respected as a minor historical film account of a momentous occasion;
but it never gives its audience a serious reason to do so. It isn't a
bad movie, it just never becomes the good one that it wants to be.
It (primarily) recounts the events of a weekend in June 1939 in upstate New York when the sitting -- this wasn't typed as a pun -- US president Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray -- Rushmore, Lost in Translation) welcomes the British King and Queen to his country estate. It was notable because a reigning British monarch had never visited America before and England was on the verge of war with Germany. Also in abundance at the estate -- meddling women ... be it mother, wife, secretary or mistress.
Laura Linney (Primal Fear, Kinsey) plays Daisy -- a distant cousin to FDR -- who is sent-for to help with FDR's wandering mind and calm him. Over time (the film spans more than a weekend), they become rather close and form another type of kinship. The story is told through Daisy which means we hear lots of narration and are given many snippets of time passing before the weekend (to see them develop a relationship -- which an audience never really does) until the monarchs arrive and it becomes ALL about the weekend.
There are plenty of decent moments in Hyde Park on Hudson including Murray as FDR and some wonderful shots of beautiful country landscapes. The film looks nice and the period detail will win some over; but the film fails to ever make a connection with Daisy. As the central character, the audience is given no real reason to want to follow her ... why is she really even here? I don't want to call her bland but the film gives us no reason to believe otherwise and absolutely no real reason as to why her and FDR forged their bond.
I appreciated the depictions of the King and Queen (this is the stuttering king Colin Firth won an Oscar for playing a few years ago and Olivia Colman is quite good as the uncomfortable queen) and their struggles with being in America such as their trying to fathom the "rage" about hot dogs.
Sadly, most of the rest of the film is empty -- like the Hyde Park estate would be when FDR returned to Washington. This should have been so much more ...
We saw this marvellous sleeper of a film yesterday and we both left the
theatre feeling happy that we had seen such a positive film. It was a
slice from FDR's extraordinary life and it focused, surprising for us,
on aspects of his personal rather than political life. As the title
suggests it took place totally at his vacation home in rural New York
and centred on his relationship with various people attached to his
office or his vacation home.
There is a lovely section about mid-way through the film that involves the king and queen of England on a state visit and it brings out many fascinating observations about the disparity between the two countries. The pretension of the House of Windsor takes a bit of a thump but all turns out well in the end.
As to the technicalities of putting the film together I admit to be completely taken by the acting of all the on-screen actors; I loved the photography, the set decoration, the lighting and the shot selection by the director. The totality of the film was absolutely brilliant! I knew that Hollywood had it in them to create a movie of this gentle kind but the silliness of the Disney studios seem to preclude movies of this calibre making a buck which is the only thing Hollywood cares about in our era of corporatism. See it at all costs!
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