At the Movies: Hyde Park on Hudson

One doesn’t usually associate funny man Bill Murray with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt but the comedian/actor does a good job portraying the Great Depression/Word War II-era leader.

As is the style with historical biographies this year, “Hyde Park on Hudson” focuses on one moment in Roosevelt’s life. In this instance it’s a visit by the King and Queen of England in 1939 to the president’s home in upstate New York.

hyde_park_on_hudson_movie_poster-bill_murray-laura_linneyBut before the monarchs’ arrive there’s a second story, this one revolving around Margaret “Daisy” Stuckley (Laura Linney). Daisy is a distant cousin of the president and has been invited to Hyde Park to keep him company and help take his mind off affairs of state. She becomes Roosevelt’s confidant and mistress.

The soap opera of Roosevelt’s personal life takes a backseat midway through the film with the arrival of King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) of England. (You may remember them from “The King’s Speech,” last year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture).

This marked the first time a British monarch had visited the United States and it wasn’t merely for pleasantries. Hitler was making a mess of things in Europe and the royals were crossing the pond to ask for Roosevelt’s support. To win that support, King George may have to endure the indignity of eating a hot dog.

“Hyde Park on Hudson” features some fine performances and it looks good but it’s a bit slight. The film’s two topics aren’t broached with any depth and it comes across as more soap opera than interesting drama. Murray is compelling as FDR and the movie is at its best when he’s on screen.

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