Director: Roger Michell
Cast: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Colman, Samuel West
Watch online: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / TalkTalk TV / iTunes
In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt (Murray) had an affair with his fifth cousin, Margaret (Linney). That same year, King George VI (West) and his wife (Colman) came to stay.
Sounds like the idea for two great movies, right? Hyde Park on Hudson clearly thinks so – because it tries to do both at the same time. The result, inevitably, is a sloppy sandwich. But it’s a very entertaining one.
Things start off well enough. “Once upon a time, the President visited Hyde Park on Hudson…” trills Laura Linney’s voiceover. We see things from her POV, a cute wee romance between a jovial FDR and his timid rural relative. They go on car rides through the fields. She laughs at his jokes. He (ahem) shows her his stamp collection.
Then the Brits come to stay. Suddenly, we’re surrounded by stuttering royals and social farce, dinner conversations and hushed arguments. And Linney? She’s out of the frame completely, left standing in the hallway alone while the others chat over food. And Richard Nelson’s screenplay couldn’t care less. So much for her perspective.
But the weird thing is that while Hyde Park on Hudson’s middle does exactly what it shouldn’t do, it turns out to be the best part of the film. Why? Two words: Olivia Colman. Stealing every scene as Bertie’s wife, she frets over FDR’s choice of food for the picnic with hilarious charm. Samuel West is equally impressive, stepping out of the shadow of Colin Firth’s Oscar-winning king to become one of the most developed characters on the screen.
And in the middle of it all, Bill Murray smokes cigars and swings around his false legs with aplomb. The cast’s quaint jokes and Roger Michell’s pretty visuals, though, never quite compensate for the disjointed script.
Which of Hyde Park on Hudson’s two story lines would we rather have seen? It’s hard to say. But as long as a movie involves Olivia Colman and Bill Murray saying the words “hot dog” over and over again, it’s hard to complain.