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It's clear very early on why this FDR biopic was unable to garner any critical or box office traction....
Universal / 94 Minutes / 2012 / Rated R / Street Date: April 9, 2013
Hyde Park on Hudsonhas all the earmarks of a successful historical biopic, but even though the film’s cast is right on the money, there’s really nothing here. The idea of Bill Murray playing FDR is a rich and fertile one, to be sure, but like so many undernourished nonfiction-esque films like this one, it doesn’t really teach us anything of note: it’s not even particularly fun to watch.
The specter of WWII hangs in the distance of Hyde Park on Hudson. Our film begins in 1939, with a visit to the USA by King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman). They stay with FDR at his beloved Hyde Park estate, and the King and the President stage discussions about what exactly they should do about that Hitler fellow.
But director Roger Michell takes a risk by infusing the film with a striking degree of humor – there’s no doubt that this is the lightest and airiest FDR-centered picture ever made. In fact, there’s even a degree of loveplay yuks that pop up as FDR juggles his dedication to Eleanor (Olivia Williams) and his romantic bents toward Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney). I understand that it’s nice to not be weighed down by overly serious dramatic material, but Michell’s tone is too all over the place and unconvincing to work.
Hyde Park on Hudsonends up in limbo: it’s quite clear why the movie was unable to snag either critical acclaim or box office dollars. Too silly to be historically legitimate, Hyde Park offers us a wonderful view of Murray and Linney doing what they can with the film’s anemic dramatic material – with a better script, this thing really might have been something – but it is undermined around every narrative corner by a cinematic syntax that never fully engages.