Hyde Park on Hudson: A Hopeless, Pearl-Clutching Cipher
Look, let's get this straight: Bill Murray can do no fucking wrong. His FDR obviously isn't the so-good-it's-scary soul-deep possession of Daniel Day-Lewis's Abraham Lincoln. It's not like you ever forget that he's Bill Murray playing FDR. But he's excellent anyway: He gets the president's playfulness, his condescending, patrician air, and his inherent inaccessibility, and he makes it his own. His performance is a masterful sketch that looks easier than it probably is.
It's a shame Murray is stuck in the middle of such a pedestrian movie. The soundtrack of Hyde Park on Hudson is embarrassing, a flouncy orchestral lark that sounds like it was ripped wholly from a 1960s Disney movie. And while the moment in history it portrays—FDR invites the king and queen of England to his home as the Nazi threat gets closer to Great Britain in Europe—is absolutely worthy of a film, this is not the script it deserves.
The problem, I'm sad to say, is Laura Linney, or rather, the character Linney plays: Daisy, FDR's distant cousin and longtime lover. Putting Daisy at the center of the story proves to be a mistake, since her character isn't filled out at all. She waits for FDR to call, she hangs around his mansion being discreetly ignored by everyone, and she feels sad when he betrays her. There's nothing to Daisy beyond her relationship with the president. Linney stands around looking happy, or sad, and there's no suggestion of a life outside her relationship.
Making the viewer's entry into Hyde Park on Hudson a hopeless, pearl-clutching cipher is a terrible decision. Especially since the scenes where FDR and the royals do a complicated diplomatic dance (the president isn't obvious about whether he wants to get involved in a war or not, the king and queen are obviously desperate for help) are funny, broad, and well acted. Shame about the other 50 minutes of the movie.