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Hyde Park on Hudson(2012)
The story of the love affair between FDR and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley, centered around the weekend in 1939 when the King and Queen of the United Kingdom visited upstate New York.
For more about Hyde Park on Hudson and the Hyde Park on Hudson Blu-ray release, see Hyde Park on Hudson Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 2, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Elizabeth Marvel
Director: Roger Michell
» See full cast & crew
Hyde Park on Hudson Blu-ray Review
(Four) terms of endearment.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 2, 2013
Franklin Delano Roosevelt fascinated me when I was a child, and while a number of my youthful contemporaries were for example examining the carcass of the Nixon presidency for history or social studies reports, I was voraciously reading everything I could get my hands on about our 32nd President and writing voluminous papers on the only man to be elected four times to the highest office in the land. I came rather late in my parents' lives, so they had in fact been alive during Roosevelt's presidency (though rather young at least in his first couple of terms), and they fostered my interest through a number of personal anecdotes, including their childhood memories of Roosevelt's inimitable "fireside chats". One thing that repeatedly struck me as I read various historians' accounts of Roosevelt's presidency is how the public at large wasn't generally aware that he was paralyzed. This just seemed incomprehensible to a kid raised in a world of mass media where seemingly every jot and tittle of a politician's life is public knowledge. What's really ironic about this is back when I was a kid reading about Roosevelt, FDR's personal peccadilloes were not generally discussed, even in exhaustive biographies of the man. It wasn't until much later in life that I finally started reading about FDR's rumored affair with Lucy Mercer, who was evidently at his side the day he died from a cerebral hemorrhage. Even less known until relatively recently was another affair—perhaps more of the heart than of the flesh—that Roosevelt engaged in with his sixth cousin, Daisy Suckley. (History buffs will know that Roosevelt's own wife Eleanor was also a cousin of his, something that seemed to raise nary an eyebrow during their long and somewhat tumultuous marriage.) There's some question as to exactly what kind of relationship Suckley and Roosevelt had, but it's clear that Hyde Park on the Hudson wants to combine a surreptitious love story with a sort of "King's Speech lite" approach to history, using a 1939 visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Roosevelt's expansive New York estate on the eve of World War II as the fulcrum around which several salient plot points ultimately hinge.
There's the seed of a really fascinating film buried deep within Hyde Park on Hudson, but scenarist Richard Nelson doesn't seem to know how to nurture the central idea until it can fully blossom. Some of Suckley's vast correspondence with President Roosevelt was found underneath her bed after she died, and that no doubt helped to inspire the film, but Nelson makes a couple of missteps in looking into this long hidden relationship. First of all, he has virtually no development of the romance. Daisy is called to Roosevelt's home to help take his mind off of pressing political matters and then seemingly within minutes is (and there's unfortunately no way to state this very delicately) giving the President "manual gratification" in his car (most likely the reason for this otherwise pretty tame film's R rating).
Perhaps more troublingly from a structural perspective, the film is supposedly told resolutely from Daisy's point of view, replete with regular narration from the character. But several central scenes have absolutely no connection to Suckley whatsoever, and in fact the whole mashup between the Roosevelt-Suckley affair and the arrival of the King and Queen of England is rather peculiar and never woven together in any really meaningful way. One has to assume that the recent success of The King's Speech had to have had something to do with this really peculiar decision, for it not only has nothing to do with the central focus of the film, it also tucks Daisy over in both a figurative and literal corner, while we gets lots of supposedly whimsical scenes of the King and Queen attempting to come to terms with their "rustic" environment as well as the developing relationship between "Bertie" and Franklin.
However, the most central issue probably hobbling Hyde Park on Hudson the most is a simple one: who are these characters? Roosevelt of course is so iconic that one might think that would automatically grant an immediate entrée into understanding some basics about the man. But Murray never quite rises to the challenge of playing this role, especially with regard to even attempting to mimic Roosevelt's highly distinctive idiolect (imagine what someone like Daniel Day-Lewis might have done with this part). Instead we get a depiction of what seems to be an affable enough guy who just happens to be an inveterate lecher. The situation is even worse with Suckley. While Laura Linney brings a sweet simplicity to the role, the fact is there's simply not much "there" there. Who is Daisy Suckley and why is she both attractive to and attracted to the President? The film offers no answers. Instead we're shown a kind of cipher stumbling through history, witnessing great events but neither fully participating in them nor offering any pertinent perspective on what's going on.
Though the film is dramatically flawed, perhaps fatally so, from a purely visual aspect it's quite a winning offering. Director Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes), cinematographer Lol Crawley, production designer Simon Bowles and costume designer Dinah Collin work together seamlessly to create a wonderfully evocative moment in time, all the more remarkable in that the film was lensed in England and not the American East Coast. The entire film is suffused with the amber hues of a warm remembrance; it's just a little sad that the memories are so obviously manipulated and in fact are represented here as being rather remarkably banal.
Hyde Park on Hudson Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hyde Park on Hudson is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This film has a really gorgeous, diffused quality throughout much of it that may be mistaken for "softness", something that is belied by the excellent fine detail that is readily apparent, especially in close-ups. Director Michell and DP Crawley tend to favor what appears to be natural, relatively unaugmented, lighting schemes, and so a lot of the film is fairly heavily shaded, especially in interior moments, though shadow detail is quite abundant, at least most of the time. The outdoor scenes, especially several outstanding brightly lit daytime sequences, pop really beautifully. Colors are somewhat muted but are nicely saturated and appear largely accurate, save for some obvious moments that have been intentionally color graded. The film is rather short and supplements are relatively meager, so a BD-50 more than suffices for the content here and no compression artifacts were noticed.
Hyde Park on Hudson Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Hyde Park on Hudson features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is fairly modest in its sonic ambitions and therefore doesn't offer much "wow" factor in terms of tremendous immersion or surround activity. Dialogue is almost uniformly anchored in the front channels, leaving the surrounds to capture some well done ambient environmental effects and the charming minimalist score. There are occasional moments of sonic activity, notably when Roosevelt marauds through the countryside in his specially equipped roadster, and, late in the film, when the King and Queen attend a picnic that has Native American performers as well as a gaggle of guests. Those moments are really nicely alive and utilize the surrounds quite smartly. Fidelity is excellent though dynamic range is relatively limited.
Hyde Park on Hudson Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Hyde Park on Hudson Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There's kind of an unseemly element to Hyde Park on Hudson that may grate on some sensibilities. Roosevelt is portrayed as a serial philanderer (which may in fact be completely accurate), but Daisy's acquiescence to the situation (after a half hearted moment of umbrage) seems self-hating and is yet another "unanswered question" this film never even attempts to penetrate. The kind of soap operatic aspect of the Daisy-Franklin affair makes for a decided odd couple with the other main plot of the King and Queen paying a visit, a gambit that surely must have been inspired by The King's Speech. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in Hyde Park on Hudson's formulation, it's a backhanded compliment at best. To horribly mangle a song which was popular during the Roosevelt years, Hyde Park on Hudson may be lovely to look at, but it's not especially delightful to know.
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Hyde Park on Hudson Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: April 9-16 - April 6, 2013
For the week of April 9th, Universal Studios is bringing Hyde Park on Hudson to Blu-ray. This picture didn't make quite the impact that Universal and Focus Features hoped for when it premiered last December; despite a prestigious topic and the visual acumen of ...
• Hyde Park on Hudson Blu-ray (Updated) - February 5, 2013
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet Combo Pack release of director Roger Michell's Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Bill Murray, Laura Linney and Olivia Williams. The story of the love affair between U.S. President Franklin ...
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