Editor’s Note: Last Sunday I had the opportunity to attend an early screening of Hyde Park on Hudson at the New York Film Festival. I’ll be seeing Amour this Friday as well.
I was a little unsure what to write about Hyde Park on Hudson after viewing it. I enjoyed it while I was in the theater but the flaws started sinking in afterward. I was expecting to like it since Bill Murray’s my favorite comedian and FDR is my favorite president, but Hyde Park isn’t a fantastic movie. But it isn’t a bad one either and I don’t regret watching it. It was a little disappointing as I had higher expectations but its throughly enjoyable.
Hyde Park is about King George VI (Samuel West) and his wife Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Coleman) visiting the United States, the first time any British monarch has done so. They go to Hyde Park in New York to meet with President Roosevelt (Bill Murray) to discuss about the possible outbreak of World War II and the United States’ involvement in it. Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney), Roosevelt’s distant cousin (and secret lover), narrates the story, which is not only about the visit but also about her relationship with her cousin.
Hyde Park is a romantic comedy, a genre I’m not a particular fan of. Yet there were many times where I laughed in the film. The comedic timing in this film is excellent. This may have to do with the cast, of course. Bill Murray is excellent in his role, though it’s not as strong as his character from Moonrise Kingdom. I also liked West’s performance as the King. We’ve all seen Colin Firth’s performance as George and West isn’t doing an imitation of it. There’s a running joke in the movie where FDR is serving hot dogs for the King and Queen, something which quite bothers them. The reaction shots are very funny and well done.
Yet Hyde Park on Hudson is held back by its lack of ambition. The movie wants to tell two stories, one about the visit and one about Margaret’s and FDR’s relationship. I thought the film could have pushed these plots much more. I was hoping for more talks about the possible outbreak of war or more depth into character. Hyde Park is very light on this and could have gone much further.
Hyde Park‘s strengths outweigh its flaws though, so I can recommend the movie. If you’re a fan of Bill Murray like me, you’ll like seeing him on screen. But if you’re looking for a strong historical picture, this isn’t it.