Hyde Park on Hudson
Directed by Roger Michell
Written by Richard Nelson
Starring: Bill Murray, Laura Linney Film4 Productions
Rated R | 95 Minutes
Release Date: December 7, 2012
Directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill) and written by playwright and screenwriter Richard Nelson, Hyde Park on Hudson features Bill Murray as the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
June, 1939. King George VI (Samuel West) and his wife, the Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), visit President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s country estate in Hyde Park, New York. No British monarch has ever visited the United States before, and President Roosevelt hopes the event will bolster American support for the United Kingdom on the eve of World War II.
At the same time, the President is growing closer to his distant cousin and eventual mistress, Margaret ‘Daisy’ Suckley (Laura Linney). A shy and simple woman, Daisy is called up to Hyde Park to see her fifth cousin, who just happens to be President of the United States. After showing her his stamp collection, Roosevelt drives Daisy into a field of wild flowers where she proceeds to pleasure him…
*** WAIT, WHAT!? ***
That’s right, folks. The 32nd President of the United States, a man remembered for getting us through the Great Depression and the second World War, gets a handjob from Laura Linney. This awkward, “what the f*ck!?” moment is made even worse with Linney’s voiceover, which explains that – after the HJ – they had become “very good friends.”
*** OK, CONTINUE ***
Watching the President get a handjob is one thing, but watching the King of England eat a hotdog is something entirely different – or is it? I wonder if Michell had initially titled his film Handjobs and Hotdogs but instead settled for Hyde Park on Hudson because he didn’t want to give away the film’s meaning. The narrative of his film hinges on a public relations stunt where the King and Queen of England attend a picnic at FDR’s estate and eat hotdogs in front of the American press.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m not sure why Hyde Park on Hudson exists. I guess there’s an interesting story in there somewhere, the intrigue and drama of a presidential affair combined with an exploration of the events leading up to World War II, but it isn’t in this movie. While I can appreciate the film’s attempt at portraying historical figures accurately and showing us more than just their public persona, Hyde Park on Hudson is a cinematic debacle. Bill Murray and Samuel West deliver award-worthy performances, but they’re regretfully trapped in a film that acts like a sleeping pill with credits.
With Lincoln, I felt there wasn’t enough examination of the man himself – the film seemed too focused on the 13th amendment and the politics involved in getting the abolishment of slavery passed – but here I feel the exact opposite. Hyde Park does a good job of introducing you to a side of FDR you’re unfamiliar with – the side that collects stamps, goes swimming, and get handjobs from his cousin – while the rest of the narrative stands still.
If the filmmakers would have approached this film as a definitive FDR biopic that examined the man and his presidency, Hyde Park could have been one of the best films of the year – but instead we’re treated to a story that has little intrigue and even less emotional resonance. Handjobs and Hotdogs – sorry, Hyde Park on Hudson – may stir curiosity from fanatical FDR scholars and history buffs, though I have a feeling they’ll be just as bored as I was during this 95-minute journey into drowsiness.