FDR was the perfect family man. Just don’t let him stay alone with your oldest daughter.
The story takes place over a weekend in 1939 where a little-known and rather peculiar affair FDR (Bill Murray) had with his cousin Margaret ‘Daisy’ Stuckley (Laura Linney) took place, as well as a visit from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at their upstate New York cottage.
Without Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who knows what the hell type of state our country would have been left in. Not only did he get us through one of the worst times to ever be alive and live in America (The Great Depression), but he also got us through a Second World War. Basically, when it comes right down to it, the man is an inspiration to all Americans, let alone, human-beings out there and it only seems suitable that the guy be part 2, of 2012’s “president-gets-a-movie-year”. However, I wish it wasn’t this movie.
Taking the same approach that Lincoln did, as instead of focusing on the president’s whole life and adventures, they take a little snap-shot of his life and whereas that movie seemed to be focused on a more-important aspect of Honest Abe’s life, this story takes place around a time of FDR’s that should seem important and should seem interesting, but simply, is not. Director Roger Michell definitely seems like he wants to have fun with this story and make it seem like we really are there for the weekend, just as much as the King and Queen are, but we never really get that true-essence of fun, mainly because of who the story is focused on and why.
Instead of making this an important story about FDR and King George VI became buddies, in order for England and America to unite and fight WWII together, the story is more about how FDR got his rocks off with his 5th cousin. That’s all juicy and sensational and definitely provides an interesting-take on a romantic-comedy plot-line, but is just boring and after the first 10 minutes where FDR and Daisy share an intimate moment in a field together (which is one of the biggest “WHAT THE FUCK?!??!” moments of the year) it all goes downhill from there and never brings us back-up to date with anything that’s going on or what’s going to happen. Seriously, after that scene, you’re not going to know what to think and keep on wondering as to whether or not you should laugh, leave, or just laugh, in the unintentional way. Your pick, I guess.
Underneath this semi-romantic story, actually lies a deep and understood one about the uniting of these two nations and they definitely provide some of the best scenes of the whole frickin’ movie. There’s a sweet, subtle scene between King George VI and FDR where they both chill out, share a couple of after-hour martinis, and just shoot the shit on being a ruler, being the hot-shot on campus, and most of all, just life in general. Since the story/movie is apparently supposed to be told through Daisy’s eyes, it’s a tad strange that we get a look at this private moment between the two, knowing that it could have never been seen through her eyes, but regardless, it’s still a nice, heartfelt scene that shows that maybe this movie can do more than just try it’s hardest at giving us a weird-romance to care about.
However, it falls right back into it’s formula that it tried so hard to leave in the first-place and just really bummed me out since there is promise for a strong story here, but no Michell just wanted to keep on throwing soapy melodrama at us, as if we care for this relationship in the least-bit. Anytime Daisy gets upset over the fact that FDR is doing things that takes his eyes and attention away from her, she slips into a rage-fueled break down that makes her seem so childish, and just makes the movie seem all the more dramatic than it needed to be. It wouldn’t have sucked so much if we gave a crap, but the fact of the matter is, we just don’t and I would have much rather seen the film about FDR and the King and Queen getting along, rather than him and his cousin, well *ahem* getting along.
What also makes Daisy the weakest and most annoying-aspect of this movie is the fact that Laura Linney seems terribly miscast as her, simply because the gal is a bit too old. No offense against Linney, but she’s almost 50 and she’s playing a person that has the emotions and love-swindles of a 7-year-old girl who finds her first-crush in the playground out in the school yard. Linney does what she can with this mediocre role, but it isn’t enough to save her character from being really, really strange, not just by how she reacts to FDR’s womanizing-ways, but also to how she falls in love with the guy in the first-place. Other than the infamous field scene, there really isn’t all that much between the two that would really have me feel the love and in the end, just ends-up less and less believable as the story goes on. Yes, I know it’s a real-life account that is straight-from the personal diaries of Daisy, but there has to be some sort of dramatic-license taken here. There’s just gotta be!
The most interesting aspect of this whole movie, and probably the best as well, is the fact that it has Bill Murray playing non-other than Mr. FDR himself, and it’s a move that not only seems like a stretch, but also pretty risky, right? Well, in a way, it is a pretty risky maneuver trying to have one of the most famous comedians of all-time, play one of the most iconic president of all-time with little or no make-up used, but it’s a risky maneuver that Murray does very-well of getting past, mainly because the guy just has the most lovable screen-presence of any comedian/actor working today. Not only does Murray capture the undeniable fun and charm that was behind FDR and all his ways, but he also captures the presence of a dude that could never stand, yet was the happiest and tallest one at a party, mainly because of his happy-go-lucky personality towards everything. Sometimes when I was watching him, it really seemed like it was Bill Murray playing Bill Murray, rather than it being Bill Murray playing FDR, but I could mainly get past the fact and just enjoy the hell out of Murray and all that he did, and could do as FDR. It’s just a shame that DDL had to come-out and play Honest Abe in the same-year as Murray playing FDR, because the guy would have gotten some real Oscar-talk.
Possibly the biggest-stretch of this whole movie that wasn’t even apparent to me until I started watching was how this movie featured both the same King and Queen, that were portrayed by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter so famously about 2 years ago with The King’s Speech. It would almost seem like blasphemy to try and feature another movie with the same real-life figures, and not have them be played by Firth and Carter, but surprisingly, Samuel West and Olivia Coleman take over those roles pretty-well and are most likely the most interesting-aspects of this movie. West does a nice-job with the stammer and doesn’t go into a full-on Firth-impersonation, and Coleman allows herself to be a little weird, but reasonable as the Queen, but when then are together, it’s just so fun and electric to watch that you really feel like you’re watching a married-couple that knows each other so, so very well. However, it probably would have been way more epic to see Firth and Carter, come over from that movie into this and give a little two cents of their own. Now that, my friends, is an Oscar-caliber movie. And probably a lot better than The King’s Speech, if you don’t mind me saying so myself.
Consensus: With so much promise in the air, it’s a total bummer to admit that Hyde Park on Hudson fails to bring-out any type of importance out of it’s somewhat, historically-important story, and instead, decides to just focus on how much FDR liked his stamp collection, martinis, and most of all, some nice booty here and there, especially the ones that weren’t his wives. Yeah, that’s exactly how we all want to remember one of our finest presidents of all-time.