7 December 2012 | angiequidim
Beautiful but Half Baked
By Marie Cinquino www.thatsmye.com
On the surface, Hyde Park on Hudson is about Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and one of his mistresses, his far removed cousin Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney), who is our narrator. We are to assume that the New Deal is underway, and FDR is under much stress awaiting the visit of the King and Queen of England;it is the first time British Royalty have traveled to the United States to meet with American politicians. Margaret's company has been requested to help the President deal with his tension and to give him an excuse to get out of his office and relax. However, as the movie progresses, Margaret's presence and character becomes increasingly less important and interesting. Richard Nelson's writing feels unorganized, and quickly the relationship between FDR and King George VI (Samuel West) seems to become the focal point. As the characters develop and the drama unfolds, it becomes clear the only real constant theme here is the shedding of false ideas about others and the self.
I thought seeing Bill Murray as FDR would be distracting, but he was believable and lovable. The relationship he creates with King George VI was a display of the best writing and acting in the whole film. The two stay up late talking, sharing with one another what they feel is expected of them by their families, their countries, and themselves. They wind up drinking and comparing their physical imperfections, polio and stuttering. It seems to be a profound moment in which they become comfortable with one another, themselves, and the unity between their countries. From this point on, all of the relationships become more real and approachable. The King and Queen endure a sleepless night lighting one another's cigarettes, the President is shown to be an average man in many ways (although brilliant), and Margret's fantastic ideas about her place in the presidents life are boiled down to a much more realistic perspective.
Although some relationships between characters are enjoyable, the writing that takes us there is shaky. Margaret is introduced so strongly, and we are convinced she will play an important role, but she seems to disappear as soon as another plot point comes along. Her character seemed more of a cheap vessel to create momentum than an actual developed character. She becomes less interesting than every other character, and I end up wishing to see more of Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams) and the Queen (Olivia Colman). While the writing often feels loosely knit, the camera work is never disappointing. The scenery is beautiful and simple. It reflects these characters that are learning about themselves. It is bare bones and lovely.
Hyde Park on Hudson had its moments. I liked seeing King George VI eat hotdogs, the Queen smoke cigarettes, and FDR go swimming in a turn of the century bathing suit. However this film could have been so much better. It felt like Nelson forgot about his own plot. The gaps he left were huge and left me wondering why there were so many lose ends. The script needs to be beefed up and full cooked. There's still pink in this meat.