Film review | Hyde Park on Hudson - Comedy of manners puts FDR, Bertie & Liz in sticky situations
There’s the same mix of history and conjecture, comedy and drama, the political and the personal; and, once again, a shrewd foreigner helps anxious British royals Bertie and Elizabeth through a crisis. This time, however, the magic that made the earlier film so astonishingly successful is missing.
The story is less focused, for a start, probably because the action is largely seen through the eyes of a figure who lacks a crucial role in the drama. Laura Linney’s dowdy spinster Daisy has begun a secret affair with President Roosevelt, her sixth cousin, but she’s very much on the sidelines when the royal visit takes place.
Bertie and Elizabeth (played by Samuel West and Olivia Colman) have come to the president’s country home in upstate New York, Hyde Park on Hudson, seeking to win US support for Britain in the coming war, but the stiff and stuffy royals are painfully ill at ease in democratic America and fear the visit will end in disaster - until the paternalistic Roosevelt lends a hand.
Directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill) and based on a 2009 Radio 3 play by Richard Nelson, the film takes a much less flattering view of the royal couple than that provided by The King’s Speech. Despite his infidelities, it’s the polio-stricken Roosevelt, played with roguish charm by Bill Murray, who earns the filmmakers' sympathies. And when the story's leading quartet have to negotiate embarrassing moments - a handjob for Roosevelt administered by Daisy in a bouncing car; eating a hotdog at a picnic for Bertie and Liz - it's Murray's FDR who is most at ease in the sticky situations. Yet even Murray can do little to liven Nelson’s dull script, leaving this would-be comedy of manners lacking in sparkle.
In cinemas from Friday 1st February.
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