If the idea of watching a period film about a president is what you’re after, and the thought of sitting through the long winded Lincoln fills you with dread, then seek no more as Bill Murray heads up a talented cast in Hyde Park on Hudson.
While at Hyde Park, FDR’s mother invites distant cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) to spend time with the lonely FDR and as a result the two develop a ‘special relationship’. While this occurs, FDR invites the King and Queen of England, George VI (Samuel West) and Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), to become the first English Monarchs to visit America.
When watching Hyde Park on Hudson, one can’t help but wonder if Bill Murray equates films in which nothing actually happens with something that is Oscar worthy. As in Lost in Translation, there is very little in the way of plot intrigue over the running time. However Lost in Translation had well crafted characters to relate to, something Hyde Park in Hudson does not, Murray’s latest venture suffers from flat characterisation.
Hyde Park on Hudson greatest problem is that it suffers from a lacklustre screenplay, as it struggles to fully develop the twin narratives of the adulterous relationship between FDR and Daisy, and the visitation of the British Monarchs. The relationship between FDR and Daisy appears sweet and natural due to the talents of Murray and Linney, but the audience has no reason to feel anymore about them due to the lack of characterisation. FDR appears charismatic, if a little vulnerable while Linney is earnest throughout but the characters continually reset to these prototypes rather than evolve.
While it is understandable that the characters are not as entertaining as in The King’s Speech, the monarchs are presented as comic foils, the bumbling King and his paranoid wife, in contrast to the confident and sassy President and First Lady. The majority of their screen time is dominated by their repulsion of the idea of eating a hot dog. It seems like the kind of thing that Colman would have poked fun at in her sketch show days, highlighting the rather disappointing script.
What is rather frustrating is the cast is impressive, but the majority of them are given nothing to do. Olivia Williams’ talents are wasted as Eleanor Roosevelt as she is given little else to do but stand around and look slightly miffed. Had Michell focused on the personal relationships between these three characters, and really let the actors let loose, we might have had an interesting film.
Unfortunately, Hyde Park on Hudson demonstrates that even Bill Murray can’t save every film he is in, despite his best efforts. The cast is wasted, the direction is uncertain and the plot is threadbare. While its running time is considerably shorter than Lincoln, you’ll still be as desperate for this experience to end.