With films such as Lincoln (2012), Hollywood has been releasing numerous historical motion pictures lately. While they don't always receive big theatrical releases, they're usually powered by word-of-mouth and the Academy absolutely loves this subject matter when it's done correctly. However, they can't all be as great as films such as The King's Speech. Hyde Park on Hudson handles a lot of crucial material. Unfortunately, there's far too much wrong with this feature for it to make it worth seeing. The story feels pointless, as it isn't sure exactly what it wants to be. This is a perfect example of a filmmaker biting off way more than they can chew.
The King (Samuel West) and Queen (Olivia Colman) of England visit U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt (Bill Murray) in order to get support on the eve of World War II. However, there has been a large amount of tension between America and England, which is making the king and queen anxious about what FDR's response will be. Meanwhile, Roosevelt must deal with his official duties and the drama occurring between his mother (Elizabeth Wilson), his wife (Olivia Williams), and his mistresses.
Once the story begins, we're seeing everything from Daisy's (Laura Linney) perspective, who finds herself extremely close to FDR. The relationship they share with each other starts to get complicated and jealousy ensues, as they continue to spend more time together. It takes a while for the king and queen to arrive at Roosevelt's residence, which is when the movie becomes a little bit more interesting. Hyde Park on Hudson should have placed more focus upon the relationship between FDR, Bertie, and Elizabeth, as they deliver the strongest points of this film. Unfortunately, the plot is inconsistent and disjointed. This feature's severe lack of focus is Hyde Park on Hudson's biggest problem. One minute it wants to be about FDR and the story of his mistresses and the next it wants to be about the connection America had with England. The tone transitions that occur each time the story switches are incredibly awkward and out of place. If writer Richard Nelson truly wanted a variety of sub-plots, they should have been much more organized and cohesive. This screenplay is all over the place.
The majority of the movie feels as if something is missing, which only seem to be filled during the conversations between FDR and Bertie. The dialogue exchanged between the two characters are incredibly genuine, which makes these historical figures come across as more personal. It's a lot less about the politics and more about them as human beings. There's one scene that takes place in FDR's office, where the U.S. President is having a few drinks with the king and having a private discussion. Since both of them have disabilities, they understand the prejudice that has been placed upon them for many years. FDR becomes somewhat of a father figure for Bertie during these moments. It's charming and fascinating to see these historical figures conveyed with such a human tone. The dialogue is smooth and slick during these scenes, but it isn't consistently held throughout the remainder of the running time. Some of the portions involving the mistresses come across as a made-for-TV flick would. Once Richard Nelson's script returns to this drama, audiences will feel as if we're being held at a distance, yet again. However, it will make audiences appreciate the dialogue exchanged between FDR and Bertie, which are truly memorable.
If somebody told me that Bill Murray would do a good job in the role of Franklin Roosevelt, I would have laughed and thought they were joking. I will eat my words and admit that he's impressive here. While it takes a few minutes to get used to him, he ultimately fits rather nicely in this role. Most of his dialogue isn't very good, but he has some solid delivery, even with the material he's been given. While I don't like how much attention was placed on her character, Laura Linney has provided an outstanding performance as Daisy. Linney delivers her role with an incredibly believable charm. While her character isn't as developed as it should be, her talent makes the role worthwhile. Samuel West is alright as Bertie, as it's difficult to adjust to him. After seeing The King's Speech it's tough to accept anybody else in this role other than Colin Firth. He did such a marvelous job that anybody else would have felt out of place. There aren't any bad performances, but Laura Linney delivers the strongest performance in the entire feature.
Word-of-mouth has the power to drive a film to its success or to its failure. I'm expecting the latter for Hyde Park on Hudson, as this material swallowed these filmmakers whole. The story had potential, but the portions between FDR and the king of England are underused. Richard Nelson's screenplay is incredibly disjointed and unfocused. This could have been a much better feature, especially since the story has some fascinating elements, which is why it's such a shame that it didn't pull through. However, the performances given by Bill Murray and Laura Linney are absolutely fantastic, but it isn't enough to make this worth seeing. There are pieces of a strong historical motion picture present, but they don't fit together. Hyde Park on Hudson leaves a lot to be desired. Skip it.