Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Video review: "Hyde Park on Hudson"
“Hyde Park on Hudson” exists in that nether realm floating somewhere between history, biography and legend. Its central characters are none other than Franklin D. Roosevelt, the King and Queen of England, and FDR’s contingent of relatives and retainers. But the film is not so much about the real people as our modern conception of them.
It’s now well known that Roosevelt, despite being trapped in a body crippled by polio, was a serial philanderer. Bill Murray, hardly anybody’s first thought for the actor who should embody FDR, nonetheless creates a distinct and compelling character that, if he is not reflective of the actual president, at least makes us want the real person to resemble his portrait.
The movie’s central problem is that it’s not really about FDR or the monarchs, but about Daisy, Roosevelt’s sixth cousin played by Laura Linney, who acts as the audience’s eyes and ears. A desperately lonely spinster, Daisy is thrilled by an unexpected invitation to join Roosevelt at the familial estate, where she and the president form a queer relationship that navigates somewhere beyond friendship but does not quite make landfall with romance.
After occupying the bulk of the first half of the film, the relationship between Daisy and FDR recedes into the background during the latter portion. The story’s point of view shifts from Daisy to the British royals, who fret about being insulted and demeaned by American provincialism. Dancing somewhere in between is Roosevelt, a cheery spider playing the strings of his webs.
In the end, we’re not really sure if the movie is about the president, his quasi-affair with Daisy, the king and queen or some amorphous combination of them all.
The film is enjoyable in its parts, even if they don’t quite fit together satisfactorily.
If you’re hoping for a sumptuous set of extras to go with the video release of “Hyde Park on Hudson,” I’m afraid you’re bound for disappointment. The DVD edition comes with absolutely zero features, and even the Blu-ray/DVD combo only has a digital copy of the film, and nothing else.