HYDE PARK ON HUDSON
DIRECTED BY Roger Michell
STARS Bill Murray, Laura Linney
DRIVING MISS DAISY: Franklin Roosevelt (Bill Murray) prepares to ask Daisy (Laura Linney) for a special favor in Hyde Park on Hudson. (Photo: Focus Features)
The next time anyone blathers about "liberal Hollywood," remind them that in 2012 alone, the film factory released one movie that paid tribute to the greatest Republican president and another that made a mockery of the greatest Democratic president. In Lincoln, the climax appears several sequences before the actual ending, with Abraham Lincoln's successful navigation of the 13th Amendment through the House of Representatives. In Hyde Park on Hudson, a different sort of climax occurs early in the film, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt receives a hand job from his cousin Daisy.
The latter is the sort of baffling and awkwardly staged scene that's found throughout this frivolous yarn about the weekend in 1939 when FDR (played by Bill Murray) welcomes Britain's royal couple, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Samuel West and Olivia Colman), to his majestic New York property. While Roosevelt has his hands full entertaining the Brits, Daisy (Laura Linney) has her hands full with the president's manhood; meanwhile, Franklin's mom (Elizabeth Wilson) frets over her son's drinking while various underlings whisper about how his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) likes the ladies.
As with the equally ludicrous Hitchcock, Hyde Park on Hudson is a character assassination posing as a movie, with its central figure only displaying any real leadership or assertiveness during a lovely scene in which he has a friendly late-night chat with George. Indeed, the picture works best when the British royals are involved, and West and Colman acquit themselves well in historical roles previously owned by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech. But because this is loosely based on Daisy's secret diaries (discovered after her death in 1991), the main thrust is the relationship between the president and his cousin, and how she loves him even after she learns that he's fooling around with other women. Murray's surprisingly engaging performance is far better than Linney's atypically dreary one, but neither is able to survive a misguided screenplay that most recalls a tattered dime-store novel — lurid, superficial and hardly worth the ink or paper.
(To see Matt Brunson's lists of the Best & Worst Movies of 2012, go here.)