"HYDE PARK ON HUDSON" — ★★1/2 — Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Elizabeth Wison, Simon West; R (brief sexuality); Broadway
In the new film "Hyde Park on Hudson," Bill Murray plays Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Now, before you laugh, I have to tell you he's not bad — he's not great, but he's not bad.
The story is set in 1939, just prior to the outbreak of World War II when the pressures of the office and infirmities are taking a real toll on our 32nd president. FDR is spending more and more time at Hyde Park, his ancestral home on the Hudson, and has determined that it would be the perfect spot for him to host the king and queen of England during their upcoming visit.
But this isn't just any old visit; this will be the first time a British monarch has ever set foot in the United States and the royals come with the purpose of securing support from the president if war breaks out. This is a fabulous story.
Add to all of this the controversy of President Roosevelt insisting that the occasion be fairly low-key and even insisting on serving hotdogs to King George and Queen Elizabeth at a picnic in their honor. This is priceless stuff.
But it gets better. The royal couple is confounded by the subtleties of the occasion trying to figure out if they are being mocked or simply set in a truly American environment designed to make them more human and sympathetic to the American people.
Here's the problem.
All the great stuff above isn't the main plot of the movie. The highlighted story in "Hyde Park on Hudson" is the affair between distant cousin Daisy and her famous relative.
Laura Linney stars as Daisy, who lives in the immediate area and is summoned to Hyde Park to … well, comfort her cousin.
But highlighting just one affair isn't enough; other relationships are included and even collide. Eleanor isn't let off the hook, either; innuendo surrounding the first lady seems irresistible.Comment on this story
So, what's the bottom line?
I love the period look and feel of the film, but the attempt to blend the two plotines ends up being quite a mess. Laura Linney delivers a doe-eyed, submissive, unsympathetic character, while Bill Murray has some real moments, but overall lacks the firm-jawed bravado of FDR.
My favorites in the movie are Samuel West and Olivia Colman as the king and queen. Watching them try to figure out what these Americans are up to is almost worth the price of admission. Almost.
"Hyde Park On Hudson" is rated R for brief sexuality; running time: 95 minutes.