LFF 2012: HYDE PARK ON HUDSON Movie Review
Hyde Park On Hudson is My Week With The King’s Speech, an achingly obvious (and poorly executed) attempt to cash in on two common trends in popular movie culture: Biographies that explore a small part of an iconic figure’s life and upper-class dramas about the woes of high society.
It follows the unassuming Margaret ‘Daisy’ Suckley who becomes romantically involved with Franklin D. Roosevelt over the course of one spring. Their relationship becomes an important escape for the U.S. President during this stressful time, as he must entertain King George VI and Queen Elizabeth upon their landmark arrival in his elegant mansion. The monarchs, after all, are bringing with them pleas for America to join the British in their fight against Germany that will eventually help decide the outcome of the war.
The relationship between Roosevelt and Daisy at the core of Roger Michell’s film is unbearable to behold. The charmless performances from Laura Linney and Bill Murray (who’d have thought he could be so dull?) have no on-screen chemistry making it impossible to care about their relationship. Neither character is particularly likeable either with Roosevelt often portrayed as a womanizer and Daisy content to be his plaything. This is a fact, furthermore, that the film tries to disguise depicting the fling as a beautiful love affair through its deceptive, manipulatively romantic tone.
Even worse than the romantic relationship in Hyde Park On Hudson is the political one as Michell attempts to show how this summer at Roosevelt’s home gave birth to America and Britain’s still unbroken allegiance. The initially awkward culture clashes between the Roosevelts and the British monarchy resemble what could have been outtakes from the script of Bridesmaids. Dinner parties end in awkwardness, for instance, while entertainment from Native Americans offends the stiff upper-lip royals.
Samuel West and Olivia Colman do a fine job of standing out from Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in their portrays of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The problem, however, is that they’re given little more to do in Hyde Park On Hudson than be the comic relief. They should be vital cogs in its narrative, but in spite of dominating much of its screen time feel like supporting characters. On the rare occasion Hyde Park On Hudson attempts to give them depth, furthermore, it borrows alarmingly from The King’s Speech. “This damn stutter,” Bertie sighs during an intimate and emotional conversation with Franklin D. Roosevelt about his confidence in leading a nation, but we’ve heard it all before.
The turning point in their relationship inevitably arrives towards Hyde Park On Hudson’s finale, and it does so in a preposterous scene involving hotdogs (yes, really) that eclipses all the laughable moments preceding it. Sold to the audience as the inspirational moment in which a bond is formed that will endure through the decades, it prompted hilarity among the press and industry that saw the screening. Describing the scene in words could never do the sheer atrociousness of the moment justice. It simply must be seen to be believed.