Movie Review Movies

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) – Review

Hyde Park on Hudson cannot be compared to other historical films of recent years. Though King George makes an appearance, he is not as grave as portrayed in The King’s Speech. Compared to Lincoln, this film feels very down-to-earth and light-hearted, even trivial. But sometimes a light-hearted look at history is just as important as the epic. Hyde Park on Hudson looks at the good and bad characteristics of FDR during the events of the British Royal Family’s first visit the the United States. Quite different from other historical films, however, the events here are not viewed from the eyes of the omnipresent everyman but from Daisy, one of FDR’s many mistresses.

Contrary to my belief walking into the theater, Hyde Park on Hudson is not about the Royal Family’s visit, nor is it about FDR as a president. Hyde Park on Hudson is about FDR as a man; a man with vices – They drink! They smoke! – but none so much as his attraction to women. And just as much as it is about a president’s adultery, it is also about the women, with such lowe self-esteem or lack of seeming purpose in life, that they consider it almost as an honor to “share” this philanderer amongst each other (Eleanor and Mrs. Roosevelt being the only truly strong females portrayed). Seeing a historical president in this very real and human light can take some getting used to. This is where Bill Murray (along with the rest of the cast, including Laura Linney as Daisy, and Olivia Williams excellently portraying Eleanor Roosevelt) shines.

Bill Murray brings a light-hearted yet all-so-real touch as FDR. It’s refreshing to see such an iconic actor have to finally stretch his chops again. Like a much classier and awesome Kardashian, Bill Murray is perhaps best known for playing Bill Murray in most of his films. Though I never get tired of this, I did enjoy seeing him in a role that required subtlety and a certain level of self-seriousness. Perhaps if Hyde Park on Hudson were treated with the level of seriousness as Lincoln, Bill Murray would receive the same level of conversation as Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln. However, where the film falls most flat is in the story itself.

I was much less interested in the life of Daisy as I was in the life of FDR. Though Laura Linney played Daisy very convincingly, I found the scenes focused on her to be a distraction from the main event. The juxtaposition of her life at home to that at Hyde Park was tangible, but never quite brought that oomph. The voice-overs were somewhat bland. It felt like filler up until the end.

Ultimately, Hyde Park on Hudson isn’t quite a feel-good comic romp, nor is it a weighty historical drama; it’s somewhere in between. Viewing the events from the eyes of Daisy made everything feel a bit disconnected, which the audience will feel in turn. See it for the excellent acting and the good bits of comedy. If you don’t know about FDR the (generalized) man, see it for that as well. Just don’t expect to be blown away by the script.

Score: 6 / 10

DirectorGenreCountry / Year
Roger MichellBiography/Comedy/DramaUK 2012
Richard NelsonBill Murray, Laura Linney, and Olivia Williams94 Mins

3 out of 5; “The Little Man” rating system from the San Francisco Chronicle

Leave a Comment