HYDE PARK ON HUDSON
I enjoy watching stories of historic figures when they are not mired by political ideologies and agendas. “Hyde Park on Hudson” is such a film. It details the events surrounding a weekend in Hyde Park in which the King and Queen of England visit President Franklin Roosevelt. The movie does not dwell on the horrific domestic policies which FDR instigated, ushering in one of America’s most progressive, socialist culture alterations. Instead, it centers on the cultural disparities of America and England and the clashes perceived when those differences are augmented in a public affair. Like “The King’s Speech”, which dealt with a speech impediment during a crucial time for England, “Hyde Park on Hudson” leaves the political arena to historians and concentrates, instead on the coming together of two nations, and FDR’s philandering ways.
There is an excellent cast in “Hyde Park on Hudson”. Bill Murray, in one of his most subdued performances, plays FDR. His counterparts from across the pond are Samuel West and Olivia Colman as the King and Queen of England, respectively. Laura Linney is FDR’s neighbor and cousin, Daisy. Linney offers a strong, solid performance, yet she strangely, is being ignored for end of year awards consideration. Rounding the cast are Olivia Williams as Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Marvel as FDR’s secretary Missy and Elizabeth Wilson as his mother Sara.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
- THE MEETING BETWEEN THE KING AND FDR
- THE KING & QUEEN’S PILLOW TALK
Lol Crawley provides crisp, clear images with busy, yet marvelous framing. The film not only tells a good story, it looks good as well. Nicolas Gaster edits the film to a very comfortable 90 minute length. Often, movies like this tend to border on epic proportions; some misguided mantra that historical films must be historic in length. Thankfully, Gaster does not fall into that foible.
While “Hyde Park on Hudson” is a pleasing view, this film conjures several intriguing points. First, a major subplot is the carousing of the president. Why are films about Democratic presidents always lusty, bawdy tales? FDR, though stricken with polio, appears to have the sexual appetite of a satyr. Everyone acknowledges Bill Clinton too often makes Hugh Hefner appear a slouch; and of course, no one can forget Jimmy Carter “lusting in his heart”. You never see a movie about the wayward encounters of Bush, or Reagan, or even Ford. It’s always the Democrats who seem to have difficulty keeping things zipped. Perhaps this is one of the better reasons to join the Democrat Party; they may really mean ‘party’!
The other curious item is the timing of the film and its subject matter. Since his campaign for the 2008 election, Bronco Bama has had the media machine comparing him to two specific past presidents, Lincoln and FDR. Time Magazine, America’s version of the Socialist Manifesto, even featured a drawing of Obama in a classic FDR pose, complete with cigarette and holder. Now, two political films dominating end of the year awards consideration deal with Lincoln and FDR. Coincidence? Remember, for those of you more sports minded, it was one year after he intoned his desire to see his home team win the championship that the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. Guess that was a coincidence, too; and I’m just a conspiracy nut. Right.
“Hyde Park on Hudson” is worth a view. It looks great, and the cast balances drama and comedy exceptionally well. Unless you’re a history buff, “Hyde Park on Hudson” may not be worth the price of a theatre ticket (some $20 in areas), but it will play well for VOD or video rental.
THE GRADE FOR “Hyde Park on Hudson” = C
Fiore Mastracci is Pittsburgh’s premiere film critic and charter member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. His show, OUTTAKES, is nearing its 500th episode. Edited segments of the show can be found online at: www.youtube.com/user/RIGHTCRITIC