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Hyde Park on Hudson

2012 | 95 min | R | 2.39:1

Hyde Park on Hudson


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Theatrical release date

 07 December, 2012
 01 February, 2013

Country of origin

 United Kingdom

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Screenshots from Hyde Park on Hudson Blu-ray

Hyde Park on Hudson Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, December 13, 2012

Much of “Hyde Park on Hudson” is devoted to misdirection. With the gorgeous wilderness of the titular location, polished and primed period details, and the central casting of Bill Murray as Franklin D. Roosevelt, it’s a not a film that outwardly suggests a troubling tale is approaching. Even the marketing pushes a tone of jovial antics featuring the 32nd President of the United States. However, while the movie is playful at times, it’s primarily an unsettling tale of submission detailing affairs and humiliations, though one that’s habitually respectful to the participants. While it refuses a deep inhale of distress, “Hyde Park on Hudson” successfully undertakes a challenging story with a welcome detachment, preferring to focus on the characters, not the larger fallout from their actions.

In mid-1939, President Roosevelt (Bill Murray) desired a more peaceful area to reside in while dealing with the country’s woes, taking up residence in his mother’s estate in Hyde Park, New York, bringing along his staff and wife, Eleanor (Olivia Williams). To ease his mind, Roosevelt called for the company of his distant cousin, Margaret (Laura Linney), enjoying her simplicity with such matters of state, requesting her presence to help calm the storm of his position and the persistence of the women in his life. When their relationship takes a sexual turn, Margaret is enchanted, completely won over by Roosevelt’s charm and power. However, the truth behind the President’s female appetites is revealed during a weekend visit from King George (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Coleman), shattering Margaret’s fantasy world while complicating a crucial meeting of world leaders as WWII gathers steam in Europe.

“Hyde Park on Hudson” isn’t exactly a story of presidential command, but one of habitual weakness, turning the high-beams on Roosevelt’s love of mistresses, isolating his desire for feminine connection and the all the carnal delights that follow. Although Eleanor is a main player in this drama, she’s portrayed as a dutiful wife and a secretive lesbian, carrying on with her own interests while her husband exists in private, back during a time when there was such a thing for public figures. The screenplay by Richard Nelson (based on his play) inspects Roosevelt’s gentle way of persuasion, opening up a dialogue with Margaret through his diverse stamp collection, wowing his impressionable cousin (who’s been suffering through the Depression) with images of far-off countries and mysterious world leaders. The isolated woman (who narrates the picture) is easily won over by the attention and the sheer chaos of the estate, as the White House is relocated to rural New York, allowing the wheelchair-bound President to rest his weary soul.

Margaret’s gradual entrance into Roosevelt’s world is the primary arc of “Hyde Park on Hudson,” detailing their dance of delusion as the routine of political life obscures the reality of their pairing. There’s also another story to be told, finding the saga of King George and Queen Elizabeth taking position in the drama. Coming to visit Roosevelt to ask for America’s help in the war, the royal couple instead trips over customs and subtle power plays from the President, including a picnic thrown in their honor, requiring the King to devour a hot dog in front of the press -- an act of crude mystery meat consumption the Queen finds reprehensible. With anxieties and personal tics superbly performed by West and Colman, the visitation turns out to be the highlight of the feature, approaching the complexity of Roosevelt and his influential social persona in a more meaningful manner than his time with Margaret.

Director Roger Michell keeps the picture on the short side (90 minutes), never indulging melodrama to a point where it blocks the pace of the picture. Major disruptions of life and issues of trust are introduced but never explored in full, which works to the movie’s advantage. Murray and Linney deliver strong work (along with a fine supporting cast), but “Hyde Park on Hudson” doesn’t settle on profundity to help understand the character connections. It’s more of a breezy production with a few anguished pit stops, keeping a distanced mood to this curious sliver of time.

Starring: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Elizabeth Marvel
Director: Roger Michell

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Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) 1 May 08, 2013

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