December 7, 2012


[This is a re-post of my review from the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.  Hyde Park on Hudson opens today in limited release.]

Hyde Park on Hudson is two stories: one is a bizarre, deeply misguided “love story” about a mistress; the other is a charming fish-out-of-water story set on a historical stage. Blended together, they make a film that’s unintentionally funny in its brazen schizophrenia where the plotlines overlap in terms of setting and nothing else. Director Roger Michell doesn’t seem to notice how different these stories are, and instead of choosing the superior one, his vacillation makes the picture a captivating train wreck where I couldn’t help but wonder if Michell was being subversively hilarious. How else do you explain a scene featuring cinema’s most romantic handjob?

Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney) is a fifth cousin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray). She is called away from her country home by the President to come and keep him company at his mother’s home in Hyde Park on Hudson. In their first encounter, they talk about stamp collecting, which can be deeply seductive provided one of the participants is the President of the United States. Margaret becomes smitten with the President, and the two begin an affair that she believes is a deep, magical romance. Margaret wistfully narrates the story, and because she sees herself as the centre of the universe, she deserves equal attention to something actually important: King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) visiting America to entreat FDR’s help against Hitler’s Germany.


I simply cannot fathom why these two stories would be put together other than perhaps to serve a blandly-written FDR character that’s wasted on the talented Murray. The actor gives a fine performance, but it’s not particularly memorable and certainly nowhere near his best work. We see that no one, not fifth cousins nor the King of England, can resist the charms of the Roosevelt. But these charms don’t mean anything other than duping Margaret into thinking that she had a special relationship with FDR.

If Hyde Park on Hudson was clever, it would have some element of mocking Margaret’s deluded beliefs. There are times when it seems like the Michell has to be mocking Margaret, like when he shows a picturesque scene of her and FDR in his car, in the middle of a pastoral field, looking off into the distance of a cerulean sky while she jerks him off. But the rest of her story is played completely straight. Michell is truly on Margaret’s side, and Hyde Park comes off as preposterous as a result, especially since he has a much better movie with the King’s visit.


Even though King George VI has been immortalized on film by Colin Firth‘s memorable performance in The King’s Speech, that doesn’t mean no other actor can play the part. West gives a fine performance, and he has the benefit of playing off Colman, who is terrific as the stodgy Elizabeth. George VI’s visit to Hyde Park was the first time British royalty had come to visit America, and that’s a fun historical tale which doesn’t need the distraction of a mistress’ recollections (she’s even more distracting when you consider that Margaret has nothing to do with most scenes involving George). It feels silly to watch FDR charm Margaret with the mighty power of stamp collecting, but it feels like a crucial moment of bonding when he’s with King George. It’s intentionally entertaining when we see George and Elizabeth puzzle over what a hot dog is, and if George should eat one. A movie completely free of Margaret Suckley would have been a welcome treat.

Watching Hyde Park on Hudson is like listening to the memoir of a ridiculously vain person who believes the world literally revolves around her. At one point, Margaret says something along the lines of “This weekend would change the fate of two men, the world, and, most importantly, me.” Perhaps Michell believes that the eighty years distance between the present day and the events of the film somehow turn Margaret’s affair with FDR into something romantic. Maybe fifty years from now, some director will make a sappy historical drama about American’s involvement in the Bosnian War as seen through the eyes of Monica Lewinsky.

Rating: C-


Around The Web

Latest News

Friday Box Office: SAN ANDREAS Opens in First; ALOHA Gets Buried

Disaster pic ‘San Andreas’ claims first place on Friday with $18.2 million. And while not yet a disaster, Cameron Crowe’s ‘Aloha’ looks a little shaky on opening day.

Kyle Newman Talks STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, CHEWIE and Taylor Swift

He discusses why he likes the prequel films more than most and why the upcoming anthology films shouldn't try to be "cooler than a Star Wars film."

Oscar Beat: Cannes 2015 Offers a Preview of Awards Race to Come

Michael Fassbender and Rooney Mara are just a couple of the potential 2016 Oscar nominees that got a swell showcase at the film festival. The McConaissance, however, is taking a year off.

Enter Our Giveaway and Win Free JURASSIC WORLD Toys

Raptor claws are within your grasp!

TOP 5: SAN ANDREAS, Rick Baker Retiring, POINT BLANK Remake Trailer

The latest on the 'It' remake, a batch of original features, and a reminder to watch 'Jack Reacher' also hold a place in this week's Top 5.

THE SHINING and GRAND BUDAPEST Mash up Perfectly in “The Grand Overlook Hotel”

Who knew Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrick framed their shots so similarly?

Channing Tatum to Produce, Possibly Star in Former Lifetime Movie TWO KISSES FOR MADDY

The tear-jerker memoir revolves around a single father raising his daughter.

Watch: Four JURASSIC WORLD Journals Featuring Chris Pratt Being Chris Pratt

Pratt certainly steals the spotlight, but all four videos have loads of behind-the-scenes footage well worth checking out.

Disney Pulls the Plug on TRON 3

Disney has decided not to move forward on the 'Tron' sequel from director Joseph Kosinski.

ANT-MAN: Evangeline Lilly Announces Marvel’s Micro-Tech Challenge

Girls ages 14 to 18 can win a trip to the 'Ant-Man' premiere by building a project using micro-technology.

Page 1 of 3,97212345...102030...Last »