Monday Morning Movie Reviewer: Hyde Park on the Hudson

By | January 14, 2013

Well if that title’s not enough of a mouthful for you, you’re in the right place. Clearly, you’re a dedicated Alabama Liberal fan, which you might have to be to care about this independent film that few people have seen, and fewer still have liked. Sure, the Golden Globes threw it some nominations, but that’s just because they were paid handsomely to.

What Works: Not a whole lot…I know I’m supposed to say that Bill Murray’s portrayal of FDR is just the bee’s knees, but I really don’t feel that way. Murray is fine and it’s good to see him breaking out of Wes Anderson-mode for a film, but there’s nothing groundbreaking here, and I question the accuracy of Murray’s performance (there’s something a bit too studied and uncomfortable about him as FDR, like he’s trying so hard to get it right that he doesn’t really know how to). Although I still say that Murray would make a great Bill Clinton. And Laura Linney is merely okay as well, as FDR’s distant cousin who the film alleges he had an affair with…but that claim hasn’t been entirely substantiated…not entirely anyway.

What Doesn’t Work: Most of the film takes place during a weekend visit by the King of England——–the same stuttering john from The King’s Speech and W.E.——–who is there trying to garner support against the nazis. I guess this could have been an interesting story, but it just feels like a shameful ploy to rope in this now-hot king who’s been in all these movies over the last two years, but that I’ve never heard of until now. Not every WWII story is worth telling just because it’s set during WWII. Oh, and the film is bad. It’s just really not funny enough, warm enough, and there’s a lingering sense of awkwardness as they set up situations that almost always fall flat. [When a movie’s central dilemma is whether or not the king will eat a hot dog, you’re really running the WWII genre thin.]

What I Would Have Done Differently: Why not just make a straight up biopic of FDR, who’s never really had his day in the sun? There’s been FDR as werewolf hunter (in, FDR: Werewolf Hunter). FDR as cousin-fucking rascal (this movie). And FDR as a joke (Jon Voight’s pitiful portrayal of him in Pearl Harbor). But I can’t remember a big-budget, honest-to-God biopic of the man, the only president to ever serve more than two terms, the man who led us through the Great Depression, WWII, was married to a lesbian, and set up the social safety net. There’s enough material for 10 films. Surely, we can do better.

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