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Hyde Park on Hudson Movie Review

Hyde Park On Hudson

Focus Features

Director: Roger Michell

Screenwriter: Richard Nelson from his radio play

Cast: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Elizabeth Marvel, Elizabeth Wilson, Eleanor Bron, Olivia Williams

Screened at: Park Avenue, NYC, 11/6/12

Opens: December 7, 2012

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) liked to be surrounded by women, especially by cousins. In 1905 he married Eleanor Roosevelt, his fifth-cousin once removed, and later on in life developed “personal relationships” with Margaret “Daisy” Suckley, sixth cousin once removed. In addition to the above FDR resided in his mother’s house even in adulthood and let her make decisions involving his marital life, had intimate relations with his wife’s social secretary Lucy Mercer and later on his secretary Marguerite “Missy” LeHand etc. During the first eleven years of his marriage he kept Eleanor busy giving birth to six children, but soon thereafter started his affair with Lucy Mercer. His tempo did not slow down even after being stricken with Polio in 1921

All these fascinating anecdotes became a base to a non-fiction book by Geoffrey Ward and a radio play by Richard Nelson, in which the relationship between FDR and Daisy are portrayed as sexual (among the things she gave him was Fala, a black Scottish Terrier). Hyde Park on Hudson was adopted into a screenplay by Nelson and directed by Roger Michell.

The plot takes place during one sunny June weekend, just twelve weeks prior to the start of the Second World War. FDR is getting ready for a visit by the English King George and Queen Elizabeth in Hyde Park. Weekend activities include a deep in the pool, an Indian dance for entertainment, and a picnic lunch with menu items which include green salad, strawberry shortcake and hot dogs. The Royal Couple is nervous, disgusted by American vulgarities but above all wants to succeed in getting FDR’s commitment to help the U.K. in a potential German invasion.

Hyde Park on Hudson evolves into two plots-in-one: the relationships between FDR and “the women” and the little embarrassments and few breaches of etiquette during the Royal Visit. Director Roger Michell does a terrific job maneuvering an excellent cast.

Bill Murray as FDR gives a humorous performance of a president who is ignoring a life-debilitating disease. He moves like a polio patient, guided by advisor Mike Egan. His relaxed performance as Commander in Chief, head tilting slightly to the left with frequently-puffed cigarettes and cocktails drunk in between, make for a complete presidential image.

Laura Linney plays Daisy to perfection by demonstrating her insecurities and inferiority complex, yet handling the role with dignity. With drab unflattering clothes and a cute little hat, this spinster exists to serve Roosevelt’s pleasures, with the full approval of his wife and secretary combined. Eventually she becomes part of the “inner circle” up to FDR’s death in Warm Springs, Georgia.

Samuel West and Olivia Colman play the Royals with perfect constipation, but learn to relax later on. Elizabeth Wilson as FDR’s mother and Eleanor Bron as Daisy’s aunt are rigid in under-written supporting roles. Elizabeth Marvel as Missy is adequate. Olivia Wiliams, while maintaining the physical appearance of Eleanor Roosevelt, with rabbit teeth, plays a female character ahead of her time, speaking in modern dialog which is suitable for the 1970s.

Hyde Park on Hudson was photographed beautifully by Lol Crawley and, outfitted with late 1930’s costumes by Dinah Collin. Make-up and Hair Design were done by Morag Ross and Norma Webb respectively.

I highly recommend this comedy-drama to mature film buffs, interested in un-official history.

Rated R. 95 minutes © 2012 by Tami Smith

Story – B+

Acting – B+

Technical – A-

Overall – B+

Reviewed for Shockya by Tami Smith (guest reviewer)

Bill Murray in Hyde Park on Hudson

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Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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