I went to see Hyde Park on Hudson starring Bill Murray as FDR on Saturday evening. The movie is based on the diaries of Margaret Suckley, FDR’s sixth cousin and mistress, which were discovered after her death in 1991. Suckley was portrayed by Laura Linney.
Murray has turned in Oscar-worthy performances in recent years in movies such as Rushmore and Lost in Translation. But he is neither compelling nor convincing as the 32nd President. Given that Hyde Park was released scarcely a month after Daniel Day-Lewis’ stunning performance in Lincoln, it made the task that much taller for Murray. The plotlines of the two movies also differ significantly. While Suckley’s diaries provide personal insight into the character of FDR, it isn’t as historically significant as a story focusing on the passage of the 13th Amendment. Perhaps this would not have been the case if the plot revolved around the days following the attack on Pearl Harbor or the summits with Churchill and Stalin in Tehran and Yalta.
Given the lesser historical significance of the story, this production was better suited for television. In fact, it reminded me of a lost episode of Downton Abbey or some other period piece one might see on Masterpiece Theatre. I’m not saying that Downton Abbey and Masterpiece Theatre are bad. Not by a long shot. But when I saw the latter’s productions as a child I termed them “Mommy movies” as these tended to be the sort of programming to which my Mom was (and still is) partial. I found this quality rather detracted from this movie, although I’m sure Mom would enjoy this movie immensely.
This isn’t to say it wasn’t without its humorous moments. Samuel West and Olivia Colman give fine comedic performances as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth but aren’t likely to make audiences forget Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter from The King’s Speech a couple of years back. I must say though that Olivia Williams very nearly succeeded in making Eleanor Roosevelt look sexy.