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Film review: HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, from Built For Speed

Who would have thought that depression-era US president Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) was a rampant shagger but such is the revelation in the otherwise tepid romantic drama Hyde Park on Hudson.

The thin plot of Hyde Park on Hudson sees FDR (an amusing yet believably presidential Bill Murray) plunged into Downton Abbey-like shenanigans at his retreat “Springwood” on the Hudson River in upstate New York. With his wife Eleanor now preferring the company of women, FDR increasingly engages in illicit affairs with a variety of ladies, something encouraged by his ferocious old mother (Elizabeth Wilson). Matters become more complicated, though, when FDR begins a clandestine relationship with his fifth cousin Daisy (Laura Linney).  Their supposedly scandalous relationship seems tame to modern audiences and gives the film the feel of a nicely shot but unremarkable movie-length soap opera.

The only time the film really comes to life is with the arrival of the King of England George the VI aka Bertie (Samuel West) whose stutter was the subject of The King’s Speech and Elizabeth Queen Consort best known as the Queen Mum (Olivia Coleman).  Despatched to the US to secure American support against Hitler, Liz and Bertie surprisingly wind up as a killer comic duo to rank with Morecambe and Wise. Their contempt for their hosts’ lack of refinement, particularly the Americans’ culinary choice of hot dogs for a picnic, is a riot. Olivia Colman seems to be making a habit of saving mediocre films with inspired comic performances, she did the same thing as a crazed marriage counsellor in I Give it a Year.

In an admirably restrained performance, Bill Murray is excellent as FDR. He creates a living person rather an affected impersonation. He incorporates some of FDR’s familiar gestures and habits but doesn’t sink into hammy pastiche. As the anxious “Daisy” Laura Linney, is fine as always but the script shoves her into the background for long periods denying her character the opportunity to flourish into someone memorable.

Director Roger Michell and cinematographer Lol Crawley have fashioned a visually attractive film that makes pleasing use of the bucolic landscapes of upstate New York but it’s an attractive façade to feeble story.

Ultimately, this subdued look at the US/ British culture clash in the early days of their “special relationship” and the unexpected liaisons between FDR and the women around him is perfectly pleasant but insubstantial viewing.

 

Nick’s rating: Three stars.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Roger Michell.

Release date: 28th March 2013.

Running time: 94 mins.

 

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