Review: HYDE PARK ON HUDSON

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

If interested in watching a low key, delightful and smart comedy this weekend, then look no further than this sharply written and wonderfully acted movie.  Based on Margaret Suckley’s private journals, Hyde Park on Hudson reveals a secret affair between Suckley and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  In 1939, King George VI and Queen Consort Elizabeth visited the President at his country estate in Hyde Park, New York.  The film offers a witty and highly entertaining telling of these events amidst Roosevelt’s marital and familial issues, some of which are caused by his affair with Suckley.

During a tour of Canada and the U.S., the King and Queen of England (Samuel West, Olivia Colman) eventually visit Roosevelt (Bill Murray), along with the first lady Eleanor (Olivia Williams), Roosevelt’s mother Sara (Elizabeth Wilson) in an attempt to ask for some much needed help as the world stands on the brink of another world war.  The weekend turns out to be a hilarious exercise in awkward culture clash as the King and Queen witness some of the more interesting and juicy aspects of the President’s life.

Roger Michell (Notting Hill) directs an adorable and jocular script by Richard Nelson (Ethan Frome).  As a comedy, this film works well providing plenty of grins and giggles with its delicate use of farce, but audience members probably shouldn’t expect too much drama or for that matter, a well rounded portrait of the President and his associates.  In fact, the urgency of World War II seems to be lost among the comedic scenarios.  In this case, it may be more a matter of personal taste, but I would have appreciated a more complete representation of these events and not just the more humorous aspects.

I do certainly applaud the casting choices, for there really is not one link weak in the group.  Ever since loving Colin Firth’s performance as Edward VI in The King’s Speech, I have found it quite difficult to see anyone else portray this character.  To be fair, though, Samuel West does a fine job, and much like Firth, gives a lovely vulnerability to the King of England.  Conversely, I preferred Olivia Colman’s performance as Queen Elizabeth to Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal.  Then again, Richard Nelson paints a more interesting and entertaining portrait than her development in The King’s Speech.  Laura Linney, a beautiful and talented actress, does not disappoint as Roosevelt’s mistress Margaret aka Daisy.  Finally, Bill Murray delivers an outstanding performance as FDR.  While he doesn’t look exactly like the late president, he manages to credibly capture the charm and optimistic attitude for which F.D.R. is known.

As for my recommendations, I would encourage people to catch this movie as a strong matinee and a reluctant full price.  There is plenty to enjoy in terms of writing, acting and entertainment value here.  If one is looking for a completely historically accurate portrayal of F.D.R. and the events which took place during the King and Queen’s visit, then it would be best to look elsewhere

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