HYDE PARK ON HUDSON—-as a longtime fan of Bill Murray and unabashed patriot extoller of Franklin Roosevelt, this was a shoo-in, even though it doesn’t add up to much more than a 94-minute pastime fix of both. Directed by Roger Michell, the 2012 story of FDR on a 1939 country retreat, entertaining the visiting King George VI & Queen Elizabeth, is a cup of fact with large helpings of fancy stirred in. Much of the focus is from the viewpoint of the Presidents cousin and ‘special friend’, Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney), who has a clandestine affair of the heart going with the physically-restricted, crisis-beleaguered leader.
Also on site are First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams, not the best matchup, her English accent peeks in), the imperious Sara Delano (Elizabeth Wilson) and secretary-mistress Marguerite LeHand (Elizabeth Marvel). Cousin Teddy’s theme song “Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight” would seem apropos. Samuel West and Olivia Coleman are okay as the discomfited Royals, but they pale in light of their characters incarnation in The King’s Speech. Linney is fine as ever, there are some brittle lines here and there, and there is the peekaboo fun of looking in on The Great & Famous.
Reviews gave the leads their due, less so the film, which only took in $11,000,000 from a public who don’t know FDR from FedEx. Murray thankfully doesn’t do an impression of Roosevelt, just a decent suggestion, and he’s good enough, though the scripts myriad inaccuracies do him and the departed no favors. Murray’s own sister had polio, so the actor had some tactile grounding for his characterization, and while he’s not really big enough he gets posture down and Roosevelt’s effortless wit dialed. But the screenplay does scant justice to the man’s aura of command and has him more henpecked and harried than hale and hearty: he’s already tired— the still-powerhouse, fight-filled FDR of 1939 was not the exhausted shell of 1945.
With the Brits scripted by playwright Richard Nelson to be on the nincompoopy side, you’re better advised to take the whole piece lightly, about as substantial as the hot dogs the Highnesses are faced with. Not remotely right as history, but amusing enough for an hour and a half. Get books on the subject. Read them.