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Hyde Park on Hudson - Review

Hyde Park on Hudson

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

BILL Murray shines as US President Roosevelt in Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson but the film itself feels a little too slight to be truly memorable.

Set against the backdrop of both the visit of King George following the abdication of his brother and an affair involving Roosevelt and his distant cousin, the film opts for a mostly light approach and yet only really comes alive when it gets darker.

The events in question are observed mostly through the eyes of Margaret Suckley, the cousin in question, played with just the right mix of humility and passion by Laura Linney, and whose diaries and letters (discovered under her bed at the time of her death) provided the inspiration for Richard Nelson’s screenplay.

As observed by Margaret, Roosevelt is a charming man burdened with the weight of a nation’s expectation on his shoulders, who seeks solace in the quiet sanctity of her arms.

But the arrival of King George (Samuel West) and his wife Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) for a long weekend in which the king intends to lobby for US support against Hitler, exposes some uncomfortable home truths about America’s ??th President.

Michell’s film entertains by virtue of the insights it affords into this little known chapter in Anglo-US relations and is blessed by a first-rate cast.

But it is, perhaps, a little too twee early on when it struggles to maintain any dramatic momentum and when it’s portrayal of the royals feels hopelessly dated and very much an American view of the Brits.

It’s also the type of film that invests as much dramatic tension in whether the king will eat a hotdog as it does the complexities of both the politics and emotions at play.

That said, there are some notable moments, especially in a scene between Murray and West in which the charismatic FDR finally engages with the shy young king and begins to build the platform for the ‘special relationship’ that ensues.

As previously mentioned, Murray is absolutely compelling as FDR, combining playful humour with a more serious side that really does showcase his range. Time in his company is a pleasure.

But Linney is typically strong too, as are West, Colman and Olivia Williams as the formidable Eleanor Roosevelt.

Michell’s direction is nicely paced and there’s eye-catching production design from Simon Bowles that helps to create a stylish look to the film.

But overall Hyde Park on Hudson flatters to deceive: it engages but it could also have benefitted from a little more depth.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 95mins
UK Release Date: February 1, 2013