Hyde Park on Hudson
There Will Be Hot Dogs

Following Lincoln, Hyde Park on Hudson is the second movie of the holiday season about a former president of the United States.  Like the previous film, Hyde Park focuses only on a brief period of time in the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s, rather than trying to tell his entire biography.  It’s an interesting story about an event that few modern Americans will know took place and although he may not disappear into his character as much as Daniel Day-Lewis, Bill Murray makes a good 32nd President of the United States.

The title refers to Roosevelt’s home away from the White House.  It’s his mother’s house, actually, and he retreats there whenever he can.  The movie’s story is narrated by Laura Linney’s Daisy, a distant cousin of the president whose story we eventually learn was passed down through letters and diaries that were found under her bed after she passed away.  One ordinary day, Daisy receives a phone call from the president’s mother; apparently he is bored and would appreciate the company of a not-too-closely related female relative.  Daisy is whisked away to Hyde Park where the president shows off his stamp collection, a technique he learned long ago impressed the young ladies.  Before long, the two are in the middle of a love affair.

Bill Murray as FDR in Hyde Park on the HudsonDaisy is a guest of Hyde Park on a very special weekend when King George VI becomes the first King of England to visit the United States.  World War II has broken out in England and he has come to the States to ask Roosevelt to join the fight.  He and Queen Elizabeth get more than they bargained for as the Roosevelt family’s disagreements about how to treat their royal guests are worn right there on their sleeves.  There’s also that issue of the weekend’s meal plan: hot dogs.  Daisy also gets more than she bargained for out of the weekend, learning more about this handicapped, yet powerful man who is now her lover.

As is to be expected from a movie with Bill Murray in the lead, Hyde Park on Hudson has a wonderful sense of humor throughout.  The best of it doesn’t come from Murray, however.  Samuel West and Olivia Colman are wonderful as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.  The two of them perfectly capture to shock, disbelief, and confusion that this royal couple must have been feeling when the welcome and hospitality they received turned out to be something completely different than the royal receptions they were accustomed to.  Samuel West should also be commended for taking a real-life character that was played so memorably by another actor just two years ago when Colin Firth won the Oscar for The King’s Speech, and making that character his own.

Murray and Linney were both good in the lead roles, but there just wasn’t enough written into the roles to make them stand out.  Olivia Williams benefited a little more from a slightly more over-the-top written Eleanor Roosevelt.

The real selling point of Hyde Park on Hudson is just the fact that it tells a story about a very important moment in the history of the relationship between the United State and Great Britain that doesn’t always show up in the history books.  That may be because nothing really extraordinary came out of that weekend; FDR didn’t rise up out of his wheelchair and race off to fight the war in Europe, or anything like that.  The King and Queen returned home and shortly thereafter, America entered the war.  It did, however, help two former enemies become even better allies.

Hyde Park on Hudson likely won’t bring in the awards that Lincoln is sure to, but fans of American history will still find something worth their time.

Hyde Park on Hudson is rated R for “brief sexuality.”  There is some sexuality, but honestly, I don’t think there is anything worthy of an R. PG-13 probably would have sufficed.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Hyde Park on Hudson.