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“Hyde Park on Hudson” – Early Review (SO-SO POSITIVE)

November 29, 2012

Presidents are for some reason a popular topic this year, after weeks of coming off Spielberg’s “Lincoln”, we’re now introduced to another presidential figure, Franklin Roosevelt. Bill Murray, oddly enough, is cast as the 32nd president of these United States, and for some of the films shortcomings, its Murray’s invigorating performance keeps it a float.

The summer of 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Murray) and his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) host the King and Queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) for a weekend at their home at Hyde Park on Hudson, in upstate New York. This was to be the very first-ever visit of a reigning English monarch to America. With Britain facing imminent war with Germany, the Royals are desperately looking to FDR for support. But international affairs must be juggled with the complexities of FDR’s domestic establishment, as wife, mother, and mistresses all conspire to make the royal weekend an unforgettable one.

The movie is told through the perspective of FDR’s distant cousins, Daisy (Laura Linney, who turns out to be one of many of the president’s secret lovers. Daisy’s narration is the driving force for the film, simply explaining everything that is going on in the world of 1939 without having to show us much of anything. That’s one of the many faults this movie bestows upon us. The narration become tiresome and quite frankly boring, it’s just another simple devise in a period drama used for people who are not so familiar with the times.

The films story has an issue with balancing out which one to tell properly. On the one hand, the time focused on FDR & the Kings ‘special relationship’ is by far the more superior aspect of the movie. If you’ve seen the 2010 Oscar winner, “The King’s Speech”, you know that King George was a complicated fellow with lots of emotional demons to deal with. We witness FDR playing the role of a loving father figure, encouraging this scared man to become a strong one. I wish the movie focused more on that. Instead we have the second subplot about Daisy’s relationship with FDR and how FDR conspires with his secret loves. It’s like there’s two different movies playing in one film; the light-hearted poignant friendship tale and the controversial morality tale.

Nevertheless, the movies biggest strong suit, and perhaps its only strong suit, is the casting of Bill Murray as FDR. He commands the character elegantly and without any sense of sarcastic satire. He’s endearing, even at times where we should be questioning his actions. Murray’s FDR is presented as a man with problems, physical and judgmental, we can see that FDR is a strong man and will find ways to overcome his handicap, he will not let it bring him down, but too much pride can make a man somewhat greedy. Not for money or power, well not power over people, but the power of his title over women. Which makes him a complicated figure to judge. Murray does the character 100% justice in the way it should be told, and without question I believe he’ll garner another Oscar nomination. Will he win? My money is still on President Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis).

GRADE: B-

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