Taking a lead from last years’ “My Week with Marilyn,” a bio that concentrated on just seven tumultuous days in the turbulent life of Marilyn Monroe, and recycling a character seen twice in as many years on the big screen, “Hyde Park on Hudson” tells a time compressed story of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s extramarital affairs and meeting with King George VI.
Based on true events the movie begins with FDR (Bill Murray) summoning his fifth or sixth cousin, Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney), “it depends on how you count,” she says, to keep him company at his country resort, Hyde Park on Hudson in New York. It’s June of 1939, the Depression rages on and World War II is mere months away.
FDR uses the country home to “forget the weight of the world,” and carry on an extra martial affair with Margaret. The quiet idyll of the retreat is disturbed when the President welcomed the King (Samuel West) and his wife, the Queen Consort Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), who came calling for American support should war erupt.
Despite the racy subject matter—FDR’s appetite for the ladies—there is nothing torrid about “Hyde Park on Hudson.” It is said over and over that the President needs peace and quiet, and that mantra establishes the tone of the film. Director Roger “Notting Hill” Michell has made a subtle film set in polite society, amongst the social class who treat each other with quiet restraint. That kind of restraint is the order of the day, both in the performances and story.
Some will find it slow and meandering but the movie’s beauty lies in its leisurely pace. It’s a study of a different time, a time, were respect and decorum ruled.
At the center of it all is Bill Murray. The supporting cast is good, in fact better than good, but Murray gives the kind of effortless performance that makes one wonder what might have happened to his career if his first dramatic outing, “The Razor’s Edge,” hadn’t been such a flop, forcing him back into comedy.
“Hyde Park on Hudson” is a quiet film that may make some noise at Oscar time.