Starring: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivier Coleman
You may like this if you liked: The Kings Speech (Tom Hooper, 2012), Hitchcock (Sacha Gervasi, 2012), My Week with Marilyn (Simon Curtis, 2011)
Hyde Park on Hudson tells the story of 1930s American President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (Murray) very secret affair with his distant cousin Margaret ‘Daisy’ Suckley (Linney). The main narrative of the film centres around both the developments in their affair as she learns that there is so much more to FDR than anyone realised, as well as a weekend in 1939 in which King George VI of England pays the President an important visit to ask for help in the impending war with Germany. The result is basically The King’s Speech crossed with Downton Abbey, told through the perspective of Suckley mainly referring to the secret letters between them that were not discovered until she died.
The marketing behind Hyde Park on Hudsoon is even more cynical and crafty than usual. This has obviously been marketed to the so called emerging ‘grey pound’ demographic as a light hearted comedy (what is Murray’s expression on the poster all about?!?), but it is actually quite a serious drama about a moment in history with very little comedy or feel good factor. In fact the whole film felt a little cynical as it was simply a product with no real heart and soul. It was designed to appeal to the huge fan base of Downton Abbey, Marigold Hotel and The King’s Speech with its lovely looking production values and wants the award success of The King’s Speech. The performances are all excellent and committed, but with a film as forgettable as Hyde Park on Hudson I am not surprised it was never mentioned during awards season.
The story itself has definitely suffered as it feels disjointed an inconsistent. This is a shame as there was serious potential as this was quite an important moment in history as this was the start of the ‘special relationship’ between America and Great Britain, while also providing insight into a President who was a genuinely interesting man. The story is narrated by Suckley, but there are so many scenes, some involving secret meetings, without her. I understand that these may be there more to provide setting than narrative developments, but then if this is the case there should be more focus on the relationship between Roosevelt and Suckley if this is what the story is primarily about.
Hyde Park on Hudson is a perfectly watchable, well made and well acted drama and the 90 minutes are so flow along quite nicely. That however is part of the problem, there is no real substance here, the characters feel underdeveloped and there is no real resolution at the end of the film. The theme of forbidden love, especially when a President is involved, has potential to be powerful and engrossing. However, this film seems too afraid to dive deep into the mindset of any of its characters, and just skirt around the edges. This all produces a very forgettable and empty viewing experience.
Perfectly watchable, but insistently forgettable; Hyde Park on Hudson frustrates as much as it entertains, and a lack of focus and a desperation for awards is the main reason it does not realise its own potential.