“But, to answer your question, Elizabeth, I am going to eat a hot dog.”
All the way back in 2003, Bill Murray seemed like a pretty sure thing for an Oscar when he was nominated for his performance in Lost In Translation. Then the award went to Sean Penn for his part in his part in Mystic River. Murray’s career has never had the clearest of trajectories. He seems to follow any old whim that comes his way. Which is way the last decade of his filmography has titles as diverse as Garfield 2, Broken Flowers and Zombieland. But if there is any sort of consistency, I think it’s in his several Oscar bating performances. Like he’s trying to prove how wrong the academy got it back in ’03. Oscar bait like Get Low, most recently St Vincent, and just a few years ago, Hyde Park on the Hudson.
It’s 1939, WWII is yet to kick off and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Murray) is balls deep into his second term. Fed up with the attention of public life, he has secluded himself at his childhood home at Hyde Park (of the New York variety), where he lives with his aging mother, and personal assistant, Daisy (Laura Linney). More than an assistant, Daisy is also a distant cousin. More than a distant cousin, Daisy is also his lover, after a romantic drive through the countryside leads to romantic front seat hand job.
In England, the whole King’s Speech business has gone down and stuttering King George VI (Samuel West) is now running the show. He’s also about to become the first British King to ever visit the United States. In keeping with his eccentric, reclusive ways, Roosevelt decides that the King and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Coleman) should stay with him, his mother, his mistress and his estranged wife (Oliver Williams as Eleanor Roosevelt) at Hyde Park. What follows is part comedy about stuffy Brits and boorish Americans, part relationship drama about FDR and how his appetite for women hurt others, and part bro comedy as the President and King bond over their disabilities. What doesn’t follow, is much substance.
Hyde Park on the Hudson is shot extremely well and looks amazing. The rolling hills and blooming meadows surrounding the President’s home might be some of the best looking backdrops of any movie ever made. The acting is top notch stuff all round. Murray gets to chew just the right amount of scenery as FDR, Linney gets all the emotional money shot moments, with West and Coleman making their take on the stuffy Britons fresher than the material deserves. But for all of that, the movie just never really amounts to anything.
When it came out, Hyde Park on the Hudson seemingly inspired two reactions from most critics. It was either slammed as being terrible, or it was simply dismissed all together. I avoided it these last few years because I liked the idea of it, and didn’t want those terrible reviews proven right. Now that I have seen Hyde Park on the Hudson, I’d say it in no way deserves the slams. The look and performances are just too good. But I do kind of understand the dismissals. I don’t hate it, but I can’t imagine that I’ll remember much about it.