Hyde Park on Hudson is one of the least enjoyable movies of 2012 and just as uninteresting now that is has been released to DVD and Blu-ray. The problem with this attempt at a semi-biopic is the lack of balance between the story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s relationship with his mistress Margaret “Daisy” Stuckley and that of the visit by King George and his wife, Queen Elizabeth. The script attempts to tie the two storylines together. But in that effort, writer Richard Nelson and director Roger Michell have instead crafted a story that ends up plodding along at a near snail’s pace all while not really amounting to anything by the time it ends. The story is narrated by what is supposed to be Margaret Suckley, explaining her relationship. Herein lies another issue with the story. Because it is told from the vantage point of “the other woman”, there’s no way to ignore the comparison to the Madonna helmed W./E. Just as the latter was an art film, this movie comes across the same way, eventually amounting to nothing.
The initial comparison to W./E. is only one problem with Hyde Park on Hudson. Anyone that has any knowledge of presidential history or even the slightest interest in said history know that Roosevelt was just one of so many political figures that has been anything but faithful in their marriage. Keeping this in mind, it makes the storyline of FDR’s relationship with his mistress–and only certain people knowing about it—all the less interesting. Had the story been more focused and aimed perhaps at the political relationship between the British royals and the President, it might have actually had more substance about it. But sadly, Nelson opts instead for the more dramatized side of things, going more for the intended soap opera that surrounded FDR and his mistress, again causing the story’s pacing to drag along slowly, and thus leave audiences feel robbed of their time.
For all of the negatives surrounding Hyde Park on Hudson, it does have at least one positive. That positive would be its backdrops and associated cinematography. The beautiful countryside backdrops of the story are beautiful. And thanks to the expert work of the movie’s film crew, those backdrops became the real stars of the movie; even more so than lead star Bill Murray who did quite the job of portraying the late President. Murray’s portrayal leaves one wondering if he did so well, then how much better could this script have been had Nelson and Michell come to terms on which story was more important. But because of Hollywood’s seemingly insatiable appetite for prequels, sequels, and reboots, one can only hope that should the story of Roosevelt’s “secret” ever be retold, it will star Murray again, but actually have more worth seeing.
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