Hyde Park On Hudson
Based on the letters FDR wrote to Margaret Suckley, found under her bed upon her death, Hyde Park On Hudson sets itself up as a love story but loses the plot somewhat.
American President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Murray) welcomes King George (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Colman) to Hyde Park on Hudson, his country retreat for the weekend. FDR has accepted that the weekend will be a tiresome one - There'll be a lot of small talk until George admits the British need American support in the face of inevitable war with Hitler's Germany - but FDR is more interested in taking his distant cousin Margaret Suckley, aka Daisy (Linney) for romantic drives in the country...
Narrated by Laura Linney, the audience is sold the idea that this is a story about a tender love affair between an ordinary woman and, despite his crippling polio, the most powerful man on the planet. Director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) certainly wants us to believe that this is what we'll see unfold, as he treats us to cute romantic drives in picturesque country settings. But then it loses focus.
The burgeoning love affair stays on the fringes of what is a slapped together series of sequences of events set over one weekend, touching on the complexities of the FDR/Eleanor (Williams) and George/Elizabeth marriages. The latter is a quite different dynamic to the one we were sold in The Queen's Speech. Colman's paranoid Elizabeth berates her husband with 'your brother wouldn't do that,' invariably bringing on another bout of stuttering. When not nasty to each other, the royals here are nervous buffoons.
The plot is half-baked so the cast make with some serious charm. Murray rarely does dramatic roles and Michell sets out to make you forget it's him: In FDR's lengthy introductory scene Murray is shot from a distance, from the back, and his face is half in shadow. It's a tactic that works because by the end of the scene we're used to FDR's mannerisms and voice and the funny Bill Murray has disappeared. He and the always-wonderful Laura Linney are watchable but they have nothing to do: the affair is too nice, too open and too much in the background to carry any weight.
The film's best scenes come between the brash American Olivia Williams and the awkward, stilted niceties of the totally British Colman.
Review by Gavin Burke | 16:31 | Monday 28th January 2013 | Movie Review