Hyde Park on Hudson Reviews
Decent Film but don't expect alot! Hyde Park on Hudson is a film that wishes to be seriously esteemed and respected as a minor historical film account of a momentous occasion; but it never gives its audience a serious reason to do so. It isn't a bad movie, it just never becomes the good one that it wants to be. There are plenty of decent moments in Hyde Park on Hudson including Murray as FDR and some wonderful shots of beautiful country landscapes. The film looks nice and the period detail will win some over; but the film fails to ever make a connection with Daisy. As the central character, the audience is given no real reason to want to follow her ... why is she really even here? I appreciated the depictions of the King and Queen (this is the stuttering king Colin Firth won an Oscar for playing a few years ago and Olivia Colman is quite good as the uncomfortable queen) and their struggles with being in America such as their trying to fathom the "rage" about hot dogs. "Hyde Park on Hudson" is a pleasant film, but it presumes to be interesting on the basis that it depicts famous political figures and exposes a beloved president's unflattering personal life. Maybe that's an exaggerated assumption of the film's intent, but it doesn't tell a story of any kind as far as plot structure goes. It's a great advertisement for a film audiences would prefer to see about who FDR really was, but in and of itself, it fails to offer any acute insight.
In 1930s Hudson Valley, Margaret "Daisy" Suckley is reacquainted with her distant cousin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to help him relax at his family estate. That aid soon develops into much more as they become lovers. That puts Daisy in a unique position as Roosevelt receives the King and Queen of Britain in 1939 for a visit. As the Royal couple copes with the President's oddly plebeian arrangements, Daisy learns that there is far more to Roosevelt's life than she realized. With the world about to be set ablaze by war, friendships are struck and perspectives are gained on that special weekend that would make all the difference with a great, but very human, president.
Have you ever heard of a movie getting trampled by bad reviews and then wondered how it could ever be that bad when it apparently has everything going for it? And then watched it only to find out that yes it is that bad? Well, for me, that movie is "Hyde Park on Hudson" which contains lots of lovely period detail and technically fine performances but outside of Olivia Williams as Eleanor Roosevelt, all of this is as lively as the average wax museum.(When are we getting that Eleanor Roosevelt biopic anyway?) Plus, there is the repetitive and unnecessary narration and a point of view that is superfluous at best which admittedly does point out that British American relations were a little rough in the years before PBS.
Murray has received much praise in recent years for his performances in indie films like 'Lost in Translation' and 'Broken Flowers' but, frankly, I've always found him a bit one-note. Here, somewhat outside his comfort zone, he's fantastic, managing to embody the character of Roosevelt while maintaining the enigma of the man. It's an impressive cast all round and visually the film is splendid. The script, however, is at times hideous, with an insultingly moronic voice-over forced upon the audience. This is what happens when you hire a playwright, rather than a screenwriter, to tell your story. Literally everything we see on screen is explained either before or after by Linney, as though the film is being simultaneously broadcast over radio. Recently, it seems as though every second major American film features a similarly dumb voice-over. Call me paranoid, but I can't help think this is Hollywood's reaction to the increasingly popular, and incredibly ignorant, phenomenon of viewers texting while "watching" movies. Those of us who venture to the cinema to look at images projected on a screen are the ones who are being left behind.
I tend to call the genre HOOP SKIRTS AND CORSETS. Now don't get me wrong, we can learn a lot by looking back, but after a while, it all tends to come across as WHITE PEOPLES' PROBLEMS. (make a mental note: that would make a great name for a band - sort of a THE NEGRO PROBLEM 2.0). There's too much self-satisfaction going on, as if everyone, the cast AND the audience, make little "tutting" sounds to prove how superior they are to everyone else around them. "Look at us! We're cultured! Bring on more iambic pentameter!"
So enter HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, which on the surface, looks like a perfectly respectable entry. You have a cast with an undeniable pedigree, a director who certainly has proven to have visual flair despite a spotty record, and an unusual subject matter, FDR hosting the King and Queen of England while simultaneously boinking his cousin. It's certainly handsomely shot, and Bill Murray is a daring choice to play the 1939 President, and the tone is quite genial, but after about an hour, I had had enough. I walked out. I just didn't care what I was watching. It wouldn't be fair to fully review this film. I was bored beyond belief. I heard the King and Queen stuff is pretty fun, and I'm sure everyone acquits themselves respectfully. Others told me that it's pretty shapeless and doesn't really go anywhere. Clearly, this one ain't for everyone. It just makes me want to say, please path the meth and throw out the granny panties!
The performance are great here. I kind of wish Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter would have returned as Bertie and The Queen. Olivia Williams was very good.
I recommend it for Murray's and Linney's performances.
The visit of King George V and Queen Elizabeth (the "Queen Mum") to Franklin D. Roosevelt's mother's house in Hyde Park On Hudson, in upstate New York, on the eve of the Second World War, was a significant event, but the movie is just well made piece of historical speculation mostly grounded in personal recollections that have continually been coming to light over the last seventy years. With eccentric and intriguing characters including Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams), King Bertie and Queen Liz (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) and, if course, Franklin D. Roosevelt himself (Bill Murray) the movie could not fail, but sometimes telling of the story through the eyes of Franklin D. Roosevelt's fifth cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) could be done much better. We have here a long and friendly affair told using the least interesting technique, missing the effects of the momentous circumstances going on in the slightly chaotic household. Bill Murray is my favourite here - charming, clever, at ease and, ultimately, cunning! Elizabeth Marvel matched him well most of the time as his aide Missy.
If you like films which are breezy and you are curious about a very unique part of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt's life, there is a chance you will find this movie totally enjoyable - even lovable.
I joke about how there's not much intrigue to this pre-US-enters-WWII study on the life of F.D. Roosevelt, but the fact of the matter is that this film's plot is relatively thin, so not a whole lot of flesh-out should be expected out of this film, though perhaps the final product goes a touch too far with its active underdevelopment, glossing along over the exposition behind people we very much know and recognize, but can't entirely grip as characters in this undercooked opus, thanks largely to exposition issues. The film does only so much to thoroughly absorb the depth of its characterization, as sure as it does only so much to absorb atmospheric genuinness that would have helped in doing away with the degree of sappiness that hangs over certain aspects in this film, thus sparking a sort of TV film-grade superficiality that isn't so overwhelming that you feel like you're watching some kind of Lifetime movie-of-the-week bull, but further thins out a story that is light in concept and all-out too light for its own good in execution. At the very least, this film's TV film sensibilities and superficiality give you the opportunity to meditate on just how generic this film is, because although this film is too aimless to be predictable, too many familiar aspects go flaunted as supplements to the blandness that haunts this film all but throughout its course, and most supplemented by, of all things, this film's being a bit too long. At 95 minutes, this film is certainly a brief affair on a general standard, especially when you take into consideration that plotting is, as I said, superficial, expending more material - particularly those of an expository nature - than it should, yet for every moment that is relatively tight and every moment that is too tight for its own good, there is a series of moments that outstay their welcome, going bloated by excess material, and especially by repetition. The film drags its feet, and cannot afford to do that, considering how short it is, treading an overdrawn path whose length goes emphasized by plotting dragging's being accompanied by dryness in atmosphere that isn't so cold that the final product is rendered thoroughly boring, but bland enough to all but render the film paceless, and even provide more than a few occasions that are genuinely kind of dull. Roger Michell's storytelling blandly drags along about as Richard Nelson's script bloats a story concept that is not simply superficial, but all-out inconsequential, thus aimlessness ensues and leaves the final product to meander as underwhelming. Still, as lacking as this film is in both conflict, depth and tightness, a product this flawed can be saved if it delivers on more than enough charm to compensate for considerable shortcomings, and sure enough, while this film isn't too memorable, in the moment, it keeps you going, and not just with its charm.
As with most every other aspect, including the strong ones, there really isn't much to this film's style, so it's not like Lol Crawley's photographic efforts come close to ranking up there with some of the best of 2012, yet there are still reasonably in there presenting the film's visuals with handsome warmness that often catches your eyes, while your ears go caught by Jeremy Sams' score work, which is considerably conventional, often mishandled as an atmospheric supplement, and even with its own more natural shortcomings, but still nicely old-fashioned in its near-elegant simplicity. The film's photographic and musical touches aren't really anything to write home about, yet there are commendable, particularly as compliments to this world that goes further complimented by Simon Bowles' production designs, which are minimalist, and therefore nothing to really write home about either, but still restore the setting comfortably. The film certainly looks good and presents its world quaintly, being not too terribly proficient in its technicality, primarily by design, but still appealing on technical level, so much so that charm goes complimented by the film's nice technical value, though not as much as the script that also does so much damage to the final product. Playright Richard Nelson handles this film script, and all too often makes his share of hiccups, whether it be through superficiality and conventionalism, or through repetitious padding, so it's not like he's not to blame for this film's being more underwhelming than it should be, even with its being so minimalist and inconsequential, and yet, at the same time, Nelson does quite a bit to get this film by, turning in dialogue that is perhaps too dryly old-fashioned, to where there are hardly any actual chuckles throughout this generally rather stuffy comedy ("I suppose an angel walked by... a clumsy one"; oh yeah, hilarious...), but still charms as surely as what characterization there is charms. As a character study, this film boasts little in the way of depth, and I'm not just saying that because this film, even in concept, is paper-thin, so characterization is hardly all that colorful, yet Nelson still gets you associated with these figures with enjoyable humanity that makes most every real-life character in this film, to one degree or another, likable, and finds its color complimented by charismatic portrayals of the reasonably charmingly-crafted characters. As you can imagine, there is nearly nothing in the way of acting material presented to this film's case of fairly well-esteemed talents, yet more everyone in this cast charm, with standouts including Samuel West, who is hardly the gripping force that Colin Firth was in "The King's Speech" (Hey, don't get me wrong, Firth was great, I just thought James Franco topped him in 2010), a film still too relevant to dismiss comparisons, but portrays King George VI's medical flaws believably and humanity with a decent bit of engaging range, all but matched by the human range in Laura Linney's relatively standout performance, while leading man Bill Murray all but makes up for his being miscast by turning in his usual charm, which fits FDR comfortably enough for you to buy into the figure's humanity, even though this film doesn't give Murray the material to flaunt the strength behind the powerful leader in question (Longest-serving US president of all time; he better be good). The film is what it is, and what it is is a minimalist and inconsequential biopic that wanders along dryly and conventionally, and on that level, while this film is far from rewarding, the final product succeeds in sustaining your engagement value adequately, boasting enough charm to keep you reasonably entertained, though not likely to remember the film too much.
To wrap up this affair, exposition issues and a touch of sappiness to atmosphere supplement this film's kind of TV film superficiality, which leaves you to further meditate upon this film's conventionalism, while padding through excess material and repetition, and the often dull atmospheric dryness attached to a meandering story structure, do the most in emphasizing the inconsequential aimlessness of this film that render the final product underwhelming, yet doesn't completely battle back the undeniable strengths, from good cinematography, charming score work and decent production designs, to the script that boasts charming dialogue and characterization, - brought to life by charismatic performances, particularly those by Samuel West, Laura Linney and leading man Bill Murray - and helps considerably in making "Hyde Park on Hudson" a reasonably entertaining opus that charms through and through, regardless of its being a bit too thin for its own good.
2.5/5 - Fair