Hyde Park on Hudson is really kind of dull


‘Hyde Park on Hudson’ has a handful of great performances, but has a boring and lifeless romance with a dreary narration.


Love apparently is something that existed even back in the 20th century, especially weird, off-putting, bizarre love. And also perhaps even between the highest British head of state and his arranged bride. But don’t let that confusing notion stop you from seeing this movie — the movie itself will do that.

The King’s Speech focuses on some of the aspects of King George VI in a much better film.

So in Hyde Park on Hudson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (or FDR, played with aplomb by Bill Murray) was President when World War II erupted, and only a few months before it started the King and Queen (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) of the UK traveled to the US — the first time a British monarch had ever visited the country. The idea was to get support for the war everyone knew was coming, and the UK was concerned (rightfully so) that they’d be a target for Germany’s forces. Seems an interesting idea so far, even if the well-known 2010 movie The King’s Speech focuses on some of the aspects of King George VI in a much better film. But don’t forget! The real story here is a terrible love story between FDR and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley (Laura Linney, sleepwalking her way through the entire movie).

You really get a sense of “I don’t like this woman and why is she here anyway?” from beginning to end.

Based on the posthumously discovered (albeit fragmented and inconclusive) personal letters of Margaret, this movie posits that FDR had an affair with her, and a few other women as well. This is something historians disagree on, but let’s just assume the movie has taken liberties and leave it at that. The movie is bizarre and unwieldy — Margaret just appears, it seems, as if from nowhere intruding on significant historical events, apparently being interesting to FDR because … she’s not his wife? That’s the only thing I could pinpoint as a legitimate reason. Margaret falls for the irascible scoundrel who is beloved by the press and country (apparently), and yet gets jealous when she thinks FDR is also having an affair with someone else. A bit hypocritical, isn’t it? You really get a sense of “I don’t like this woman and why is she here anyway?” from beginning to end.

The few good scenes are all about the UK monarchs’ visit, including one especially great one between the King and the President, where FDR acts as a surrogate father figure. Enjoyable and revelatory. But the rest of this movie is flat, dry, slow, and meaningless. The so-called love story is unbelievable and off-putting, mildly derogatory, and distracting from anything important. Laura Linney, who is undoubtedly a fine actress elsewhere, seems to have been told to “play it like you are always unsure of what’s going on and never display a real emotion”. Bill Murray has already gotten some praise and accolades for his performance, and he’s good, sure, but not with the romantic plot. Perhaps this movie should’ve just been about the UK visit instead, with the love story highly minimized or removed altogether.

Could’ve been a good movie then.

Photo Credit: Focus Features

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