“Hyde Park on Hudson” is a love story without love. Franklin appears to be a mommy's boy who is married to a woman who doesn’t love him and he has a mistress who he doesn’t seem to, or shows any, love and he has an affair with a 5th or 6th cousin who he confides in but uses her for sexual ‘relief’.
After her death, at the age of 100 in 1991, a box of letters and journals told the story of Daisy’s unknown affair with Franklin and this movie is told with a lot of narration. Daisy, played by Laura Linney, and her cousin, who just happened to be president of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt, played by Bill Murray, his wife Eleanor, played by Olivia Williams, his mother played by Elizabeth Wilson and his secretary/mistress, Missy, played by Elizabeth Marvel appear as loveless people.
The picture takes place when England’s King George, played by Samuel West, and Queen Elizabeth, played by Olivia Colman, come to the United States, the first royalty to ever do so, in order to cement relations and hopefully get help from the U. S. when England gets in a war against Hitler.
There is a lot of history in this movie from the King and Queen being served ‘hot dogs’ to the public never seeing a picture of Franklin in his wheel chair, or being carried, as he had very limited use of his legs after contracting polio. He had a specially designed ‘hands only’ car and pictures would be taken after he was in a car. Along with this, though many were aware of his dalliances including one with Dorothy Schiff, owner and publisher of the New York Post, none were even hinted at by the media just as Eleanor’s ‘manish women’ friends were never mentioned. It was a different world and a different time and will probably be more surprising to younger viewers at how much the world, and the media, have changed.
The screenplay by Richard Nelson relies too much on Daisy’s narration, especially when you have an actress like Laura Linney who can say more with a look than a lot of words. She has one line that makes the viewer sit up straight in their chair then has them laughing with a follow up line. The director, Roger Michell, gets great scenes in upper New York State, where Hyde Park is, but missteps here and there.
Laura Linney is one of America’s best actresses and is mostly wasted here. Though the film is supposedly about Daisy, Bill Murray, as FDR, does a good job bringing forth the man who was the 32nd president of the USA and the exchanges with Samuel West show both men to their best advantage. The supporting cast are all fine even when the screenwriter and director try to bring in some “Upstairs, Downstairs” into the film. At 95 minutes this is a quick moving film but far from a ‘must see’ except to become familiar with a media world that might seem strange today..