Hyde Park on Hudson is a slice of FDR’s life in the pre-war late 1930’s. It’s a light piece of fluff but totally enjoyable.
Bill Murray is fun to watch as FDR. This is not the FDR of stern speeches and wartime gravity. This is the warmer and fuzzier FDR, away from Washington to enjoy some time in the idyllic countryside, 90 miles upriver from Manhattan. This is not the goofy, eccentric Bill Murray. This time he brings depth and maturity to the role.
On one visit to Hyde Park, Roosevelt sends for his distant cousin Daisy, played by Laura Linney. She isn’t really sure why she’s been summoned to hang out with the president, but after a few visits and a drive to a secluded spot, she soon finds out. This is a plain, single woman who lives quietly with her mother. Suddenly, she’s having an affair with FDR.
What’s weird about their arrangement is everybody on FDR’s staff seems to be aware of what’s happening. Even the president’s mother and his wife Eleanor appear to know what the score is. Even the King of England and his wife who visit Hyde Park know that FDR is a philanderer. Compared to the secrecy, denials and shame of the Clinton-Lewinsky episode, this adulterous fling seems almost respectable.
Linney is perfect for the role of Daisy. She is revealed to be more than a blank, uninteresting woman. She has feelings and self-respect. Daisy’s self esteem rises and falls as the film’s events unfold.
Murray doesn’t really look like FDR, but with the trademark cigarette holder and glasses as props, he comes close enough. His late night conversation with King George of England is one of the movie’s highlights and one of his more presidential scenes in the movie.
Hyde Park on Hudson and its players will not be award winners, but this period piece takes us to a pleasant time and place. It provides a few laughs and tells a good story. If that’s what you enjoy in a movie, check it out!