Hyde Park on Hudson is the story of he love affair between Daisy and her sixth cousin, and President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
There has been a glut of films based on historical and beloved people recently, and each of them – including J. Edgar and The King’s Speech – have revealed the central character in a new and interesting light. Hyde Park on Hudson is no different.
Daisy (Laura Linney) is a distant cousin of FDR and when he sends for her to visit his home, they begin a curious yet warm relationship. There is doubt that Linney is a strong actress, and she brings a demure strength to the character. Bill Murray has been bouncing around quirky films for some time, but his performance as FDR reminds us that he too is a fantastic actor. Murray brings strength and playfulness to the role, but it is the selfish actions of the character that reveal the most about him, and balance out Daisy’s innocent honesty.
Olivia Williams plays Eleanor Roosevelt as a tough woman who doesn’t stand for nonsense, but likes to try the people around her. Olivia Colman plays the Queen Mum in a less silly manner than Helena Bonham Carter, although her outrage over hotdogs is inspired, did and Samuel West feels somewhat bland as King George VI until he gets his moment with FDR.
It is interesting that less than two years after The King’s Speech, Hyde Park on Hudson focuses on the first British Royal visit to the US. Screenwriter Richard Nelson’s choice to do this feels as though it was deliberate in order to capitalise on the success of Colin Firth’s film. It also seems as though Hyde Park on Hudson suffers from the decision to use this temporal setting, and to turn it around so quickly. We have been almost overwhelmed by the appearances of King George VI on screen recently – he was in W.E. too, remember? – and this gives the film a familiarity that is almost wearying. In fact, if it were not for a beautiful and honest conversation between FDR and the King, this would feel like familiar territory with nothing new to say.
As for the relationship between FDR and Daisy, she naively believes that she is the first of his conquests, other than his wife, and while their relationship seems sweet and natural, it is also painfully obvious that he can never be truly honest with her. He is the one with the power here, even if he is rather reticent to show it.
Director Roger Michell – arguably best known for Notting Hill – captures the relationships well, and the awkwardness between just about everyone. Where the film falls down, however, is in the details; Daisy narrates the film, yet there are private scenes between the King and Queen that she could not have been privy to. As well as this, there is very little emotional payoff. The audience is invested in Daisy, but she never really gets her moment to speak her mind, although it is implied that she got her own back in the end.
In all, Hyde Park on Hudson is funny in places and charming in others but is a weak examination of a love affair, set against the backdrop of an over familiar Royal visit.