Hyde Park on Hudson Review
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Everyone loves a good scandal—especially when politicians are involved. But director Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson takes a perfectly good political scandal and turns it into what could very well be the ickiest—and most uncomfortable—drama to hit theaters this year.

In 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) escapes to his family’s home in upstate New York, his mother calls distant cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) to keep him company—and to help take his mind off his work. What starts out as an awkward discussion about stamps soon turns into a close (but still awkward) friendship—and, after a few long drives in the country, it turns into something more.

Meanwhile, everyone at the Roosevelt home is preparing for the arrival of King George (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), marking the first trip to America by British royalty. Their visit proves to be an important time both for world politics and for Daisy.

Hyde Park on Hudson is certainly an unexpected film—but that’s not exactly a good thing. In the beginning, it feels like the kind of stuffy TV drama that your grandma would watch on Saturday afternoons. It’s about stamp collections and afternoon teas and quiet conversations in dimly-lit rooms. But then one clumsy, self-conscious scene in FDR’s car takes the story in a direction that you really didn’t want it to go.

The rest of the film, then, is a bunch of hints and suggestions—as if Michell really wants you to know that there’s something wild and shocking and completely indecent going on here, but he’s afraid to come right out and say it (or show it) because he doesn’t want to offend anyone. Instead, it’s as if he’s telling the audience, “It’s really scandalous. Just take my word for it.”

On one hand, perhaps it’s best that nothing is shown—because the very idea of Bill Murray as FDR sleeping with Laura Linney as a dowdy cat lady is uncomfortable enough. But if you’re going to make a movie about a big political scandal, it’s best to dive right in instead of tiptoeing around it. Because, this way, it ends up feeling like a PBS adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey—one that just gets ickier and more unpleasant as the story unfolds.

Of course, the film isn’t just about FDR and Daisy. It’s also about the visiting king and queen—about his stutter and her irrational fear of hot dogs. But, in the end, none of that really seems to matter. It’s just filler—and bizarre filler at that.

It’s a shame that Hyde Park on Hudson is such an embarrassing mess. After all, Bill Murray does try to give a memorable performance—but his performance isn’t what audiences will remember about this film. Instead, they’ll remember the car rides…and the hot dogs…and the horrifying awkwardness of it all.

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