‘Hyde Park on Hudson’ Movie Review – Paperthin
Technically, Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson was released last weekend. However, since it only opened in a couple locations and will be expanding more this coming weekend, I caught up with it. And although I understand the film’s appeal, I have to disagree with people who enjoyed it, and more specifically, I have to disagree with how the film presents an interesting concept.
Following her death in 1991, a box of letters between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley were found in her possession. Before this, their intimate relationship was kept primarily under wraps. With the new information, FDR’s real love life was revealed.
In Hyde Park on Hudson, Bill Murray is FDR, while Laura Linney plays Suckley. As their relationship grows, a suit of other characters are brought in. The main focus, though, is about Suckley’s life, as she narrates behind the picture.
Much like the recently released Hitchcock, the story is broken up into two completely different (and seemingly unrelated) bits. On the one hand, we’ve got FDR and his apparent mistress, while on the other hand, we get to see the British King (Samuel West) and Queen (Olivia Colman) visiting America for the first time just before the start of World War II.
To me, the latter is the story I care more about. Maybe it’s my curiosity for anything historical (especially pertaining to World War II) or maybe it was the great performance by West. For my money, this is what the story should’ve focused on.
Hyde Park on Hudson instead turns into a romantic-comedy of sorts. But the romance and the comedy are both spotty at best. Without digging into either character – I’d argue there was better character development in the King’s character – their story/romance doesn’t really work. And while part of the film has its humorous moments, they’re again mostly entirely involving the stuttering King George VI. The rest of the humor is dry and, unfortunately, dull.
Now, what did work for the film? Besides West’s performance, I had nothing against the way Murray played FDR. There have been many film adaptations of FDR over the years, but this is the first time I’ve seen him as the central character. With Murray’s portrayal, I liked what I had to see in regards of performance.
The period design worked at times, too. I wasn’t blown away by the scale of the design, but the film also was confined to one or two settings, so that could’ve helped the cause.
As you can see, I’m struggling a bit to find aspects of the film I thoroughly enjoyed. This stinks even more because I thought the historical premise had so much potential. Not only does it remind me of Hitchcock, but I’m disappointed on a level similar to last year’s J. Edgar.
When it comes down to it, the story, in my opinion, was focused on the wrong thing. Sure, that would’ve changed the story a lot, but change isn’t always a bad thing. When Robert Michell did decide to stick with the love story, he probably should’ve tried to create fuller, more well-rounded characters. The paperthin characters in Hyde Park on Hudson are just as paperthin as the conflict, and it’s not going to keep many people on the edges of their seats.
See it this weekend as it expands and agree or disagree with my take!
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