The back story, part 1: The movie Hyde Park on the Hudson is based on the papers of some fifth cousin of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. When she died at the age of 100 or so, it was revealed that FDR and Daisy had had a sexual and emotional liaison.
The back story, part 2: My family went to Hyde Park just this past summer, which is largely why The Wife and I decided to see this film this past Saturday, at the Spectrum 8 Theatre. The room was about 2/3s full.
The strength of this movie is in many of the details that it gets right, in no small part because it was filmed, in part, at Hyde Park. The look is right. The controversial anti-British cartoons after the War of 1812, which were on the bedroom walls when King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth, mother of the current monarch, came to visit in 1939, I have seen. It was the house of FDR’s mother (played by Elizabeth Wilson), and that Eleanor (Olivia Williams) was very uncomfortable being there was an open secret. The press was aware of Franklin’s physical limitations and yet didn’t report it.
One of the unfortunate aspects concerning the movie is that it came out after The King’s Speech (2010) and the characters of the monarchs will inevitably be compared with that movie, unfairly, since George’s stutter is only part of the story here. And this Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) was at least as good as Helena Bonham Carter.
It took a while for me to forget that it was Bill Murray as FDR, and while he didn’t mimic the 32nd President, FDR’s essence eventually came through. My favorite scene involved just Franklin and George (Samuel West).
Casting trivia: Elizabeth Marvel plays Missy, a major role in this film, and she’s good; she also played the minor part of Mrs. Jolly in the 2012 film Lincoln.
An odd choice: there is no shot I can recall of the Hudson River, sad because the view of the river from Hyde Park is quite lovely.
The real flaw of the film, though, is that the presumable core story, the relationship between FDR and Daisy, isn’t all that well-drawn, or interesting. Laura Linney, probably the greatest living American woman on film today not named Meryl Streep, is wasted here; her character is a cipher.
This is a small movie, mostly focused on one weekend in June of 1939. As a Presidential buff, I enjoyed enough of it that I’m glad I went, but it is by no means a great movie.