Hyde Park On The Hudson
I can’t fault Bill Murray for “Hyde Park on the Hudson.”
He’s not the first actor who pops into your head when you think about FDR but he’s got the talent and the gravitas to pull it off.
However there’s nothing of substance in this historical biopic. It’s a subplot of a subplot with no dramatic engine to propel it along. And I couldn’t help wondering why this story needed to be told at all.
The film centers on Murray’s relationship with a distant sixth cousin (Laura Linney) while staying at his mother’s home in upstate New York. Murray may be the commander in chief, but he’s not the one who really wears the pants in his family. He’s constantly trying to avoid confrontations with both his domineering mother and his chilly strong willed wife Eleanor.
So he sends for Linney to stop by and provide some company. He shows her his stamp collection, makes her a drink behind his mother’s back and the couple become something more than just friends. She gets close to the President of the United States and he gets to act like himself without being judged.
The film doesn’t shy away from FDR’s affairs, or Eleanor’s, but FDR comes across as more of a loveable rogue than a serial womanizer. However the relationships shed little to no light on the man.
A visit from King George of England provides a dose of comedy to the proceedings. There’s some good-hearted but empty mirth involving the Royals hobnobbing with commoners from the colonies, while they try to size up the prospects for American support in the war against Germany.
But it says something about how little there is at stake here that the big climax centers on whether the King of England will or will not eat a hot dog.
If this movie is remembered at all it’ll be for the tastefully shot and yet tasteless sight of an American President being pleasured by a distant cousin in a country field. If the convertible’s rockin’ don’t come a knockin’. I think our understanding of FDR could do without that little detail.