Murray dazzles, movie fizzles
Tale of historic meeting undermined with its portrayal of FDR as lecherous manipulator.
The idea of Bill Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt may strike some as strange, but the beloved actor’s performance is one of the most natural parts of “Hyde Park on Hudson.” The film wrestles with two vastly different tones and slips into some beautifully shot melodrama.
The story traces two of the former president’s important relationships as he develops a (too) close bond with his cousin, Daisy (Laura Linney), and does some fatherly mentoring of King George VI (Samuel West). As he tends to these budding relationships, he also endures and charms a host of women, including his meddling mother, his willful wife and a secretary/lover. Despite his physical limitations, it seems FDR was a man who got around quite easily.
The relationships with Daisy and King George are cultivated at the upstate New York home of Roosevelt’s mother. The president enjoys retreating to the country manor for relaxation, though his doting mother gives him little room to breathe.
The president calls on his distant cousin, Daisy, to keep him company.
The trailer and poster for writer-director Judd Apatow’s “This Is 40” advertise the film as a “sort-of sequel” to his 2007 film “Knocked Up.” The tag line is a bit of a misnomer, part tongue-in-cheek humor and part marketing ploy.
The film catches up with Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann, Apatow’s reallife wife), the quarreling couple who served as background characters in the comedy that starred Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen.
But “This Is 40” lacks much of the heart and poignancy of its predecessor, and the film’s main characters don’t engender as much sympathy as Heigl and Rogen. The vulgarity still exists, and Apatow uses it to excess in the first half as he tries to establish the film’s comedic bona fides, with lots of bodily function jokes.
As with many of Apatow’s productions, the 134-minute film strays too far and goes on too long, welding on superfluous comedic bits for laughs. The multi-hyphenate Apatow is at his best when he injects heart into his humor, as with his portrayal of Steve Carell’s character in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and the Adam Sandler character in “Funny People.”
Apatow’s fourth directorial feature attempts to mix love and laughter in what is his most personal film to date, but the central focus of “This Is 40” — the relationship between Debbie and Pete — gets muddied in ancillary story lines.
Both husband and wife are celebrating their 40th birthdays in the same week. Pete seems to be handling it better than Debbie. Part of the reason is because he refuses to acknowledge some of his lingering immaturity and the responsibilities he has to his health and family that come with age. He hides from his wife and kids in the bathroom to play Scrabble on his iPad, gorges on cupcakes and keeps the family’s financial woes from his wife while indulging his mooching father (a hilarious Albert Brooks, the film’s brightest spot).
Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann star in “This Is 40,” which catches up with their background characters in the 2007 film “Knocked Up.”
Bill Murray stars as FDR in Roger Michell’s historical tale, “Hyde Park On Hudson.”