Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the United States, serving during WWII. Energized by his triumph over polio, he was a social butterfly who charmed women, the public and diplomats alike. Hyde Park on Hudson
highlights this element of FDR's personality, centering on a brief period during which he started an affair and hosted the first royal visit at his home away from the White House.
Franklin (Bill Murray) spent a lot of time at Hyde Park and while there his mother insisted he visit with family. But the only one to comply with his request was a distant cousin, Daisy (Laura Linney). Repeat visits turn intimate and Franklin becomes Daisy's only escape from caring for her aunt at home. More excitement follows when King George (Samuel West) visits to request the U.S.'s help in defending England against the Germans. But their visit culminates in several realizations.
When Murray speaks his first words as President, his voice is unrecognizable. It's not until the camera zooms in and you see his face that you realize it is in fact Murray behind the desk. His charisma leaps off the screen. Focus is further placed on his personality versus his disability by not showing any mobility assistance until much later in the picture.
The disconnect is that even though these events occurred at the same time, they are entirely unrelated. The story about Franklin and Daisy’s affair is quiet, secretive and cheerful. It begins with stamp collecting, which leads to long drives in the country and evolves into a physical relationship that rarely results in any public (on screen) displays of affection. On the other hand, their majesties King George and Queen Elizabeth are wary of their American reception, as well as his approval rating at home.
Watching the interactions of Franklin, his mother (Elizabeth Wilson) and his wife, Eleanor (Olivia Williams), it’s clear his family was as dysfunctional as any other. Mrs. Roosevelt and Eleanor bicker constantly, both trying to fill the role of “woman of the house.” The president tends to listen to neither, while unabashedly pursuing extracurricular activities to his heart’s content. Daisy, in the meantime, is both an outsider looking in and a confidante.
The dry sense of humour is amusing, particularly Franklin’s entertaining personality. But the contrasting storylines mean the film does not have a clear direction and it bounces back and forth between narratives a lot.
Director: Roger Michell
Starring: Bill Murray
, Laura Linney
and Olivia Williams