His Dear Cousin
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the only U.S. President I knew while growing up. Like so many people back then, my family practically idolized him. That’s why watching Hyde Park on Hudson became quite uncomfortable for me. Bill Murray portrays FDR as a very different kind of man than the one I remember. Not that there’s anything wrong with Murray’s performance, but I can’t help wondering why this story about FDR’s love affair with a distant cousin needed a film adaptation. In fact, it bothered me almost as much as FDR: American Badass, starring the wonderful Barry Bostwick as a werewolf-hunting (!) Roosevelt. But I digress.
The time is 1939 -- and Franklin frequently goes to his mother’s (Elizabeth Wilson) home in upstate New York to relax and get away from the hustle of Washington, D.C. During one of these visits, he asks his cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) to spend time helping him forget the many national problems he’s dealing with. His wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) seems to have no objections, so Daisy obliges, of course, and soon these two are taking long drives together through the countryside. Sometimes these drives end up being more than Daisy expected. Predictably, she develops deep feelings for Franklin and looks forward eagerly to his Hyde Park visits.
Although Franklin appears to enjoy being with Daisy, members of the Roosevelt family and staff treat her rather shabbily, especially when the King and Queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) arrive to spend the weekend. During this important occasion, she’s looked upon as more of a servant than a friend or relative. And it’s during this special weekend that Daisy learns some unpleasant secrets about Franklin. Will she still care about him? Sounds pretty soapy, I know. And not even a very exciting soap opera. Or -- because of its detail to period clothes, cars and sets -- perhaps a less-than-stellar Masterpiece Theatre production on downers would be a better comparison.
Still, there’s nothing to complain about in the acting department. Murray delivers a believable portrayal of the nation’s most important man trying to live some type of private life while in the center of a political goldfish bowl. Linney, hiding her considerable light under a bushel of plain clothes and sweetness, makes us like Daisy no matter how gullible she is. (If you haven’t seen Linney in this year’s The Details, please check out that film to see why I think she’s one of our finest actresses working today. These two roles showcase her skill in playing extremely diverse characters so well.)
My opinion of Hyde Park on Hudson leans toward the negative, but I realize it might appeal to viewers who enjoy historical curiosities.
(Released by Focus Features and rated “R” for brief sexuality.)
For more information about Hyde Park on Hudson, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.