Bill Murray plays someone other than Bill Murray for a change in the entertaining but wildly inconsistent Hyde Park on Hudson, a film that is at once a romantic drama and a lighthearted comedy. From the director of Venus and Notting Hill, Hyde Park on Hudson works best when it's funny - and falls flat when it tries to be something more.
Hyde Park on Hudson is largely told from the perspective of Daisy (Laura Linney), a distant cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who ignores her blood relation and has an affair with the president. Meanwhile, King George VI (Samuel West) and his wife (Olivia Colman) visit FDR's remote estate to seek help for Britain against Nazi Germany. Bill Murray plays FDR.
The movie is based on a stage play by Richard Nelson, which in turn is loosely based on letters found following the death of Margaret "Daisy" Suckley. According to Wikipedia, there is no overt evidence that Daisy and FDR had a sexual relationship, but the movie suggests otherwise. Disappointingly, their relationship is as bland as they come. Though Bill Murray transforms himself surprisingly well into FDR, the character remains distant, more of a caricature than a fully realized person. Daisy, meanwhile, is a worthless character; Linney spends her time doing nothing. The chemistry between the two is nonexistent.
Strangely, the film works best when Daisy is pushed to the background. Hyde Park on Hudson largely fails as a drama, but it succeeds as a comedy. The scenes with West and Colman are the highlights of the film, as they play the uptight British stereotype to perfection. West had the undesirable task of recreating King George VI following Colin Firth's Oscar-winning version in The King's Speech, but he manages to create a likable, relatable character. Colman is spot on in her delivery.
Hyde Park on the Hudson is largely entertaining thanks to its fast pace and short runtime. But it's the tale of two movies. As a romantic drama, it doesn't work. As a comedy, it's lighthearted and funny. The one makes up for the other, sort of, but the result is inconsistent and far from impactful. It's interesting to see Billy Murray play someone other than Bill Murray, but that isn't enough.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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