“Hyde Park on Hudson” wastes no time in letting us know it’s a prestige project. This is a film that takes place in a beautiful location (the New York estate of Franklin Roosevelt’s mother with its sunny view of nature, including a driving path among the flowers), has Laura Linney, as Roosevelt’s cousin Daisy, constantly butt into the film with a pretentious voiceover narration letting us know how important everything is, and has Bill Murray, never before looking as hungry for awards recognition as he does here, slow-talk his way through an impression of Roosevelt.
It’s also actually a terribly boring film that gives us very little to chew on, until about twenty-five minutes in when an affair Franklin had with Daisy is revealed, at which point the film is not only tiresomely arty, but also a bit icky.
Roosevelt invites King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Coleman) to the estate to discuss becoming allies in WWII, but oddly, this whole plot point, which the movie’s trailer makes seem like it’s the whole movie, is given short shrift. About one pep talk scene between Roosevelt and the stuttering, unconfident George (last seen in the much better “The King’s Speech,” which “Hyde Park” seems to want to piggy-back on) is about all we get. In comparison, the film spends more time on the royal couple’s trepidations about having to eat a hot-dog at the upcoming picnic–an overused and underwhelming gag which begs the question, is British food really any better?).
What we don’t see in the trailer for this film is the shadier place director Roger Michell and scribe Richard Nelson choose to take it; detailing Roosevelt’s mistresses and the incestuous relationship he had with his cousin Daisy. It’s not something I really cared to know about and both Murray and especially Linney seem uncomfortably mired in it. Murray does a decent Roosevelt impression but the movie doesn’t allow us much space to meet the man. Linney has the same problem, her character might as well be called Narrator.
“Hyde Park” is a disaster left to the dull, effortless, and awkward approach that Michell and Nelson give it.