Hyde Park on Hudson Directed by Roger Michell FDR's affair with his cousin must have been more interesting than this.

Asleep at the Feel: This presidential handjob sure is boring.

Hyde Park on Hudson should have beentitled Handjob on Hudson. The most demurely shot jerk-off in cinematic history—a field of flowers! participants dressed to the nines!—is the only remotely interesting part of Roger Michell’s (Morning Glory, Notting Hill) film about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his “fifth or sixth cousin” mistress, Daisy. Bill Murray’s performance as the polio-ridden FDR? Serviceable but generally unimpressive. And Laura Linney’s Daisy should be classified as a sleep aid.

The story, by first-time feature writer Richard Nelson, takes place mostly over one weekend in 1939, when World War II was looming and England’s royals, King George VI, or “Bertie” (the same stuttering king portrayed in The King’s Speech, here played by Samuel West) and his wife, Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), visited FDR’s Upstate New York retreat. Before that, though, Roosevelt had gotten cozy with his cousin, warming her up by showing her see his stamp collection, and—on a particularly steamy drive—placing his hand on her knee. Their encounter progresses from there. Daisy’s essentially always just on call, however, because of Roosevelt’s wife (Olivia Williams) and, it turns out, other mistresses. And there can’t be any impropriety when the king’s around.

Hyde Park on Hudson is based on the real Daisy’s letters, found after her death. Therefore Michell and Nelson chose to lace the film with her narration, and boy, Linney’s never been flatter: “Time. Passed,” her Daisy intones, giving nearly her entire voiceover the same slow, staid treatment. “He tried to make me laugh,” Daisy says at one point. “And he was very good at that.” Really? Let’s see some evidence.

Livelier scenes involve the royals—though one extended look at Roosevelt and Bertie swimming is a useless snooze—including a heart-to-heart the two men have after dinner and drinks. Bertie later tells Elizabeth that his new pal is a “funny man—wonderful stories,” though anyone who’s seen Lincoln will attest that if Roosevelt is a good presidential storyteller, on celluloid he’s a distant second to Ol’ Abe.

Bertie and Elizabeth also provide the film’s only comic relief, registering horror about, for example, a satirical painting portraying the English army as monkeys, or the fact that hot dogs will be served at a barbecue in their honor. When a traditional Indian dance is performed at said barbeque, Colman’s Elizabeth couldn’t look more bored. (To be fair, all the other guests seem to be only feigning interest as well.) Much is made of Bertie trying a hot dog, another scene that goes on for too long, even though the film is a should-be-brisk 94 minutes.

Yet for all its meandering, Hyde Park’s conclusion feels rushed, with Daisy narrating everything the film should have shown. A film about an affair shouldn’t feel like an endless drive to a field of flowers.

Our Readers Say

Bill murray as roosevelt, really??
"showing her see his stamp collection"
I loved it. It was a slice of life film, where the humanity of the characters was front and center. The things said, observations made, were all so human, so real and, oftentimes, quite funny. I laughed a lot at the dry humor laced throughout the movie. The narration was appropriate because, after all, Daisy was on the outside, looking in, not "in the action" of FDR's life. Not all movies are supposed to be high action or shoot a bunch of people. I loved the sexual encounter (hand job and jerk off the reviewer says, language which says enough about her to explain her crippled review). The field was beautiful and the details are left to one's imagination which I find the best approach of all---this way the audience imagines the encounter to their own satisfaction like a love scene that begins but fades to dark as the lights go out. The movie was a touching and intimate portrayal of what was likely the pinnacle love connection for Daisy in all her 99 years. And it portrayed real life in those circles and those times. Nothing has changed except the total absence of gentility and people with limited communication skills calling the moment Daisy and FDR crossed the line from friends to intimates something as base as a "hand job". I think the reviewer needs a job where she doesn't need a good command of the English language, or any ability to appreciate nuance, in order to be successful. Which brings me to my question? Ms. Tricia---what's your day job?
I THOUGHT THIS WAS ONE OF THE GREAT FILMS I'VE EVER SEEN. I RESPECTFULLY THINK TRICIA OLSZEWSKI IS TOTALLY MISTAKEN IN HER REVIEW. THE FILM CAPTURES THE PERIOD PERFECTLY! BILL MURRAY WAS VERY BELIEVABLE AS ROOSEVELT,LAURA LINNEY'S PERFORMANCE, SUBDUED AND VULNERABLE, WAS BEAUTIFULLY DONE, AND THE REST OF THE CAST, INCLUDING THE ACTRESS WHO PORTRAYED ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, WAS SO INTO THE MATERIAL THAT I FELT I WAS INTIMATELY INVOLVED IN A PIECE OF IMPORTANT HISTORY. I DO AGREE WITH MS. OLSZEWSKI ABOUT THE ACTOR AND ACTRESS WHO WERE CAST AS GEORGE VI AND ELIZABETH. THEY DID INDEED ADD SOME COMIC RELIEF, BUT THEY ALSO WERE ABLE TO CONVEY THE IMPORTANCE OF THEIR MISSION WHICH WAS TO "LOBBY" THE PRESIDENT FOR AID TO AN ISLAND NATION WHICH WAS HANGING BY A THREAD IN ITS DESPERATE BATTLE AGAINST NAZI GERMANY. I WOULD ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO TAKE IN THIS FILM WHICH I FEEL WILL BE LOOKED BACK ON AS A GREAT WORK OF ART. ROB ROBERTSON, M.D. PADUCH, KY.



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