out of Five
Running time: 95
Watchable drama, heightened by a quartet of terrific performances from Murray, Williams, West and Colman, though the plot is ultimately rather slight and never really sparks to life.
What's it all about?
Directed by Roger Michell and written by Richard Nelson, Hyde Park on Hudson is set in 1939 and stars Bill Murray as President Franklin Roosevelt, who keeps a summer residence at Hyde Park, his mother's (Elizabeth Wilson) estate in upstate New York, where he begins a quiet affair with his distant cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) under the seemingly-turned blind eye of his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams). A short while after their affair begins, the estate is readied for a visit by Britain's King George (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), who are keen to secure the President's help in the impending war against Germany.
The performances are excellent, with Murray clearly relishing the chance to indulge Roosevelt's mischievous side and playing the part with a constant twinkle in his eye (the scene where he takes the Royals for a hair-raising drive is one of several highlights). Williams is equally good as strong-willed Eleanor, determined to defy any and all conventions that come her way, whether it's the way Franklin's mother runs the estate or the decorum-dictated niceties accompanying the Royal visit.
However, the film is completely stolen by Olivia Colman, who's simply wonderful as Queen Elizabeth, fretting over being expected to eat hot dogs and constantly wondering if they're being insulted; her reaction to Eleanor disingenuously asking if she minds if she calls her Elizabeth is pure perfection. Similarly, Samuel West is superb as King George, generating touching chemistry with both Colman and Murray, though Laura Linney has frustratingly little to do as Daisy and her insipid voiceover is completely superfluous.
It is fair to say that the chief pleasures of Hyde Park on Hudson are tied up in the performances and in the smaller moments, such as an amusingly-shot Presidential handjob scene. Consequently, the plot is extremely slight, to the point where the film's dramatic climax centres on whether or not the King will eat a hotdog. In addition, the screenplay plays down the emotional impact of Roosevelt's affair (while making it clear that Daisy is not his first infidelity), which results in Williams' character being unfortunately side-lined.
The superb performances ensure that Hyde Park on Hudson is never less than watchable, though if you've seen the trailer, you've basically seen the entire plot. Worth seeing, nonetheless, particularly in conjunction with The King's Speech, to which it serves as a sort of gentle sequel.
Hyde Park On Hudson (12A)