Bill Murray is an absolute God of the film world, a Mecca of Cool, the King of Kings, and he’s developed into quite the actor in his old age. In Hyde Park on Hudson Mr Murray tackles FDR in an interesting time in his life, a week in 1939 when the King and Queen of England (Elizabeth and Bertie) make the first trip to America of any royal, to ask for support in the looming war. The Roosevelt house is buzzing with anticipation as the staff ready themselves for their special guests, Eleanor (Olivia Williams) is trying her damndest to “break the mould”, wishing to call Her Majesty Liz (Olivia Colman) while protocol dictates she be called Ma’am, Mrs. Roosevelt (Elizabeth Wilson) is making a big deal out of the China they’re to use and the wall paper in the guest rooms and bothering her son about his drinking while FDR is entertaining his distant cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) with whom he begins an affair.
Meanwhile America is falling under economic turmoil, the depression affecting everyone, and FDR is trying to convince everyone he can walk. King George (Samuel West) is a very familiar character after The Kings Speech comes to life in this film as the troubled stutterer under enormous stress from his government, who finds his first real, encouraging father figured in the equally disabled FDR. Murray is at turns charming, warm, cordial and sinister. His domineering personality is on full display through Daisy’s eyes, but despite his shortcomings, he was never out of favour with those around him, including his many mistresses and his household staff.
Those unfamiliar with intimate American history will perhaps find this candid look at the President many regard as one of the nations best an interesting insight into the American psyche; it seems one can’t be a president without a mistress or four, despite how good and wholesome they appear to be in films such as Annie. It’s also interesting to learn a little more about the famed feminist Eleanor, who apparently lived separate from her husband in a house full of furniture-making lesbians (which perhaps accounts for all the mistresses).
With a script from Richard Nelson and directed by Roger Mitchell, Hyde Park on Hudson is not perhaps the frivolous romp one would expect looking at the trailer, which is full of innuendo, where tea parties and jokes are at the expense of the depression era millionaires. It is, however, a fantastic role for a fantastic actor.
Hype Park on Hudson is in Australian cinemas from 28 March through Icon Films.