Director: Roger Michell
MPAA Rating: (R)
Studio: Film Four, Free Range Films, Daybreak Pictures
We’ve got a couple of presidential bios on movie screens this season, what with the mammoth Lincoln and now the modest Hyde Park on Hudson, in which Bill Murray plays the New Deal–brokering, wheelchair-bound President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Richard Nelson’s screenplay, directed by Roger Michell, makes for a cozy, coddling and meandering sort of movie. In fact, apart from a few discreet sex scenes involving the prez and his White House assistant and distant cousin, played by Laura Linney, the hagiographic thing sometimes reminds us of an old Hallmark Hall of Fame. You know: pleasant, pseudo-uplifting, inconsequential. The film is set mostly amidst lazy country drives, pleasant conversations and stagey scenes and at FDR’s beautiful country home in New York in 1939 when POTUS is beset by problems domestic and international.
Under the eye of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (wittily played by Olivia Williams) and the president’s secretary (Elizabeth Marvel), Linney’s watchful but less-than-fascinating character becomes pretty much a household fixture—so much so that she becomes a firsthand observer when the Roosevelts play host to King George and Queen Elizabeth (Samuel West, Olivia Colman). It’s mostly a ploy by the Brits to gain America’s support for war with Germany, and these scenes are the liveliest and most absorbing in the film. Which isn’t saying much.
A tamped-down Murray manages only a passable imitation of Roosevelt, but he’s enjoyable. Linney is vapid in an undeveloped role; she and Murray generate zero chemistry. But not to worry: they’ll be at work again, and, hopefully, not in a vaporous movie that evaporates while you’re watching it.