Hyde Park on Hudson
A witty, civilised country house drama, featuring Bill Murray as President Roosevelt
Speculation on the private moments of public figures has become a fashionable mini-genre in the wake of The Queen and The King’s Speech. 2013 holds the promise of Naomi Watts as Princess Diana and Nicole Kidman as Princess Grace of Monaco. The sweetly sentimental Hyde Park On Hudson is virtually a sequel to The King’s Speech finding its focus in a crucial meeting between King George VI (Samuel West) and President Franklin Roosevelt (Bill Murray) at the latter’s New York country estate in the summer of 1939.
The weekend is largely seen through the eyes of Margaret ‘Daisy’ Suckley (Laura Linney), a cousin and confidante of the President who was also part of the harem around him tolerated by his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) and kept hidden from the public. Linney brings a weary, bitter edge to the needy Daisy and the film strays into more daring territory as it reveals the delicate ebb and flow of her relationship with Roosevelt.
Screenwriter Richard Nelson seems more comfortable with the chaos and discomfort surrounding the royal visit and Olivia Colman makes a wonderfully wary Queen Elizabeth. The film comes alive in the relationship between monarch and President and the mutual esteem forged during the weekend is said to have been a defining moment in the global conflict that was to come.
Bill Murray’s jaunty Roosevelt is charm personified as he places George at ease (‘Stutter? What stutter?’) and encourages him with the kind of praise he has rarely heard elsewhere. A late-night, whisky-fuelled conversation between the two men is a highlight of the film; smartly written and beautifully played by both actors. Whether it bears any resemblance to what actually happened is almost academic in a film that takes a precious moment in time and transforms it into a witty, civilised country house drama.
General release from Fri 1 Feb.