Hyde Park on Hudson
Bill Murray has often flirted with serious dramatic roles, finding greatest success when he doesn’t stray too far from his inherent Murrayness (a fading film star in Lost in Translation, for example). But in Hyde Park on Hudson he takes one of his biggest risks – playing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Set over a weekend in 1939, FDR must play host to the King and Queen of England, who are desperate to enlist America in the imminent war with Germany. But affairs of state take a back seat to those of the heart, as FDR must deal with his brilliant but brittle wife, a domineering mother and many mistresses. If you’re thinking this is a comedy, it’s not.
Indeed, the story is true, and told primarily through the eyes of Roosevelt’s distant cousin Daisy Suckley (Laura Linney), a meek and mousy confidante to whom FDR offered to show more than just his stamp collection. The script is based on Suckley’s diary, which apparently read more like an episode of Masterpiece Theatre than TMZ. Fortunately, Murray’s innate charm and goodwill with the audience keep his portrayal from becoming too pervy nor the romance too steamy.
But the most interesting aspects of the film involve the visiting royals. Samuel West is solid as the stammering monarch King George VI – although he suffers by comparison to Colin Firth’s flashier portrayal in The King’s Speech – and there’s a wonderful scene when the two world leaders share late-night cocktails away from their disapproving ladies. In the end, we‘re left with a intriguing drama that skates along on the charms of Bill Murray, who seems to be relishing the opportunity to be not cracking wise or mugging for the camera.