*1/2 (out of four)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) drives his fifth cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) to an isolated field. He puts her hand on his thigh and unfastens his pants. You know where this is going.
Daisy must be awfully good with her hands because the painfully dry “Hyde Park on Hudson” neglects to depict the bond that apparently led to a long, secret relationship between these two. First-time feature writer Richard Nelson’s script deserves about 50 tickets from the voiceover police; throughout the film, Daisy interjects with commentary like “How I longed for him,” frequently speaking about events and feelings she was not around to witness. (Much like Macy Gray’s character in “The Paperboy.”) Daisy’s limited involvement means she comes off more like a lovelorn presidential groupie than a relevant part of a historic American’s life.
Likewise, “Hyde Park on Hudson,” named for the New York estate where FDR hosted the King (Samuel West) and Queen (Olivia Colman) of England in 1939, could be called, “Franklin and Bertie’s BFF Weekend.” It was the first time British royalty had visited America, but director Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”) depicts none of FDR’s cabinet’s objections to the visit. The leaders engage in an amusing chat, relating to each other and the importance of not seeing themselves the way they fear others see their respective limitations (polio and a stutter). Yet even though England needs military support from the U.S., the impact-less storytelling of “Hyde Park” drips with inconsequentiality.
The performances are all good enough, but none of the relationships, particularly between FDR and Daisy, develop in ways that provide the cast any complex material to play. Was FDR really ignoring the nation’s woes while he hung at the house? How did Eleanor, regardless of her sexuality, feel about her husband’s apparent womanizing? Why even run the risk of making people say, “Colin Firth was so much better in ‘The King’s Speech’”?
“Hyde Park” touches on the value of laughing at one’s self, but viewers who don’t fall asleep are likely to laugh at a shallow film that includes narration about the summer breeze and a debate about whether or not the moon is full. Riveting, right?
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