Roo­sevelt ro­mance is luke­warm

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

BILL Mur­ray as revered US pres­i­dent Franklin Roo­sevelt? It might sound weird at first but Mur­ray’s sub­tly charm­ing pres­ence is one of the stronger el­e­ments of the oth­er­wise light­weight ro­mance Hyde Park on Hud­son, which de­picts Roo­sevelt with all the sub­stance and in­sight of a luke­warm cup of tea.

Not­ting Hill di­rec­tor Roger Michell, work­ing from a script by Richard Nel­son, fo­cuses on a brief pe­riod in the se­cret af­fair be­tween Pres­i­dent Franklin De­lano Roo­sevelt and his fifth cousin, Mar­garet Suck­ley – ‘‘Daisy’’, as she was known.

Un­flag­gingly loyal, earnest and sup­port­ive, she’s also mousy, quiet and a to­tal bore – a huge waste of the ver­sa­tile and vi­brant tal­ents of Laura Lin­ney.

The fact Lin­ney pro­vides wall-to-wall voiceover doesn’t add much, as she’s stuck spell­ing out what should be pretty ob­vi­ous on screen.

Much of their re­la­tion­ship ap­pears gen­tle and tame, full of long af­ter­noons spent look­ing at stamps or driv­ing through the coun­try­side in a car de­signed specif­i­cally for the po­lio-stricken pres­i­dent. About 20 min­utes in, he tells her: ‘‘I al­ways miss you’’, but we’re not there yet emo­tion­ally, and we never get there.

We also don’t get much of a sense of Roo­sevelt in terms of his power or pop­u­lar­ity; Lin­coln, this is not. In­stead, it’s all rather cosy and in­su­lar amid the rolling hills and taste­ful pe­riod trap­pings.

Mur­ray could just be play­ing a funny older gen­tle­man in a wheel­chair who likes his cigarettes and mar­ti­nis. But then there is one moment that’s tonally off in which Daisy, um, plea­sures the pres­i­dent in the front seat dur­ing one of those idyl­lic drives, and all that in­nocu­ously de­light­ful good­will gets tossed out the win­dow.

Hyde Park on Hud­son specif­i­cally calls forth the June 1939 week­end when FDR hosted King Ge­orge and Queen Elizabeth of Eng­land (Sa­muel West and Olivia Col­man) at his fam­ily’s home in up­state New York – hence the ti­tle.

Olivia Wil­liams, Laura Lin­ney and Bill Mur­ray in a bu­colic scene from

World War II is about to erupt, and the Brits have come to ask the Amer­i­cans for sup­port. In­evitable com­par­isons to The King’s Speech, for the time frame, the fig­ures it de­picts and the promi­nence of Ber­tie’s stut­ter, do not work in this film’s favour.

Michell awk­wardly tries to bal­ance both the farce of cul­tural clashes – the roy­als couldn’t pos­si­bly at­tend a pic­nic and eat hot dogs! – and the jeal­ous ten­sion that arises as Daisy re­alises she’s not the pres­i­dent’s only paramour.

Lin­ney has a cou­ple of nice scenes with Elizabeth Marvel as the pres­i­dent’s sec­re­tary, who tries to get her to snap out of it and stop be­ing such a fool­ish child. She’s got a point.

Olivia Wil­liams also brings a no-non­sense pres­ence to her por­trayal of Eleanor Roo­sevelt in a Rush­more re­u­nion with Mur­ray that’s a to­tal let­down.

The pos­si­bil­ity that the first lady en­joyed a les­bian re­la­tion­ship on the side is merely al­luded to but never sub­stan­ti­ated; still, an ex­plo­ration of that might have yielded some ac­tual hu­man­ity and sur­prises.

opens to­day.

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