Director: Roger Mitchell
Starring: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Elizabeth Marvel, Elizabeth Wilson
Written by: Richard Nelson
Running Time: 94 mins
Release date: 1st February 2013
There are some films which, while you are watching it, you know that it’s only real reason for existing is to win awards. Hyde Park On Hudson has all the hallmarks of an award winner: it looks lovely, it has a terrific cast and it’s based on fact (slightly). The problem is someone forgot to tell writer Richard Nelson that you need a coherent script that goes somewhere.
Daisy is a quiet woman spending her days looking after her mother when she gets a call to visit her 5th cousin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at his mother home in the peaceful Hyde Park on Hudson, a secluded woodland area. FDR is taken by Daisy and they start to form a friendship that leads to an affair, even though his wife, Eleanor, has come to stay at the house because they are receiving Royal visitors, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Suddenly the two worlds of Britain and the US collide for one weekend while Daisy looks on.
This is a classy film, rice with impressive performances and lush direction from Roger Mitchell (the man responsible for Notting Hill and the underrated Daniel Craig thriller, Enduring Love). The woodlands looks lovely and Mitchell has a good cinematic eye.
The performances from the first rate cast is also very enticing. Bill Murray, who is moving further and further away from comedy, makes for a very appealing Roosevelt. He is charming, witty and you can understand how Daisy fell for him. It’s a quiet, subtle performance. Laura Linney, who I have always rated highly and feel she should be on screen much more than she is, makes for a lovely Daisy, with her naive ways, she comes across as a kind lady and it’s a nice performance from the terrific actress.
Taking on the roles of George VI and Elizabeth, after having been portrayed so successfully by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech, a hard act to follow, Samuel West does a gallant job as Bertie, trying not to overdo the stutter, while Olivia Colman steals the show from everyone as the stiff-collared Elizabeth, getting the best lines. Colman is slowly becoming one of this country’s finest and it won’t be too long until she becomes as award winner herself.
While all this is perfectly fine, it needs a story to hang these good performances on and alas, it’s not here. I was never sure where this film was going or what it wanted to say. We get the relationship between FDR and Daisy and then that is almost catapulted off the screen by the arrival of Royalty, only to return once the King and Queen are gone. By that point, you’ve almost forgotten it has happened.
We are then given a third act that seems out of place, as does one particular scene near the beginning that is suppose to show the President and his cousin cementing their relationship. Tone wise it’s all wrong and received unintentional laughter from the audience I saw the film with. It also has a fairly unhealthy obsession with hot dogs. Hard to explain without a spoiler but it plays a huge part.
Completely ignored by the Oscars, this could have been one of the big contenders but if the film doesn’t relate to the audience, how is it going to relate to the Academy? A pity as it could have been a big winner, given a better, more complete script.