FilmReview

HYDE PARK ON HUDSON: A…DIFFERENT SORT OF FDR…

Emily White ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor

Laura Linney stars as Daisy and Bill Murray stars as Franklin D. Roosevelt in Focus Features release, "Hyde Park on Hudson." Photo Credit: Nicola Dove
Laura Linney stars as Daisy and Bill Murray stars as Franklin D. Roosevelt in Focus Features release, “Hyde Park on Hudson.” Photo Credit: Nicola Dove

As one of the most highly anticipated movies of the season Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Bill Murray and Laura Linney, is not what one would expect from a biopic of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It depicts him at his most vulnerable and most unlovable period of his life, just before America is about to enter WWII. The art direction and costuming paint a beautiful picture of FDR’s life at his getaway from the White House, Hyde Park on Hudson, but his actions and the movie are anything but a “beautiful picture.” Instead, the audience sits through an extremely uncomfortable hour and a half of everything we didn’t want to know about FDR, and very little of anything we do want to know.

The story is told from the perspective of Daisy, played by Linney, a distant relative and mistress (one of many, we later discover) of FDR. Their “special relationship” is uncomfortable, partly because Linney seems much too young for Murray and Daisy too trusting for FDR, and partly because we don’t see FDR’s estranged relationship with Eleanor until much later after the relationship starts. Because FDR and Eleanor have been so idealized for many Americans, Daisy and FDR’s relationship is one we don’t root for, even though Daisy is the protagonist, which makes it difficult to get involved in the movie at first. Also uncomfortable is the explicit parallel between this “special relationship” and the “special relationship” that forms between America and England after the visit of King George and Queen Elizabeth, a visit that takes up the majority of the movie.

This visit is perhaps the most entertaining part of the movie, as we see the Brits humorously bumble in their attempt at navigating American ways and their heartfelt struggle to garner assistance for a country in need. However, it makes the movie a bit confusing, since this plot diverges greatly from the main storyline of Daisy’s relationship with FDR. It takes us further and further away from Murray’s FDR, a man we rarely see close enough to examine in the film, let alone understand. Perhaps it is because of the perspective from Daisy that makes him such a distant character, but it leaves the audience confused and unfulfilled.

If you are a history buff and/or fan of FDR, don’t go to this movie expecting to learn anything about his life. While his relationship with Daisy was documented, the depiction of Eleanor is heavily based on supposition, and brought up a great deal of criticism for her depiction in the movie, which seemed very over-exaggerated. Don’t expect to see much of FDR’s psyche either. This movie keeps him at an arm’s length, which is probably for the best, considering just how uncomfortable this movie makes the audience feel about him.

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