Hyde Park on Hudson

Wednesday, 27 March, 2013

2 and a half stars

Franklin D. Roosevelt was President of the United States from 1933 until 1945. That’s some 70 years ago, and those times, if they are recreated with any accuracy at all in Hyde Park on Hudson (trailer), the latest feature of Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”, “Enduring Love”), show just how much the world has changed in less than a century.

Rare today, for example, would be the sight of a serving US President driving themselves about the countryside, flanked by a single police escort. Yet in 1939 the world was somewhat simpler than what it has become, and it was also a period when a world leader’s private life was subjected to far less public scrutiny than is now the case.

It’s no surprise therefore to learn that a romantic liaison, or “deep friendship” Roosevelt – portrayed here by Bill Murray – had with a woman named Daisy Suckley (Laura Linney), during his presidency, only came to light after Suckley’s death in 1991, when her dairies, and letters she and Roosevelt had exchanged, were found.

Hyde Park on Hudson still

Suckley, also distantly related to Roosevelt, was invited to the President’s Hyde Park home in the Hudson Valley of New York state, when King George VI (Samuel West), and his wife Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), on the first ever visit by a British sovereign to the US as it happened, travelled there to meet Roosevelt.

It’s a premise that is surely a screenwriter’s delight. And with the presence of more than one covert lover – all of who Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor (Olivia Williams), possibly knew about – a looming world war, and a monarch carrying a desperate plea for help in fighting Nazi Germany, there could be little chance of disappointment.

As a lighthearted take on a little known aspect of Roosevelt’s life though, “Hyde Park on Hudson” comes out as just that, light. The performances cannot be faulted, nor the cinematography, but as a tale of surreptitious romance, and intrigue, what unfolds is just a little too innocuous, a little too sedate, for consumption in a faster paced world.

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