Hyde Park On Hudson Review

Some people have faith in religion, some create belief systems around the sports teams they follow and, more recently, a rather lost generation of 21st century boy folk have created an overzealous cult around a fictional man who likes to dress up as a bat.

Me, I have a special relationship with a man called Bill. Though it sounds a little weird when I put it like that.

Now Bill has played a great many role in his life, and everyone will have their own favourite memory; be it chinning Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day, questioning the manhood of some beard in a suit in Ghostbuster, chinning Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day, or serenading Scarlett Johansson whilst Lost In Translation.

Personally, I’d go for pretty much any scene from The Life Aquatic, though would probably settle on the bit where Steve “Stevesie” Zissou turns into Clint Eastwood and kicks a fleet of Filipino pirates off his boat.

Which fits in very nicely with my hero worship of the great man.

But the one thing I’d never have predicted for Bill is that he’d go on to be President of the United States of America.

The year is 1939, the Second World War is about to hit what’s left of sovereign Europe and the King and Queen of England have set sail to America for the weekend so they can canvas support from their once sworn enemy.

But Franklin D Roosevelt seems more interested in getting better acquainted with his distant cousin Daisy then any pressing affairs of foreign states.

I saw Hyde Park On Hudson some moons back now as part of the London film festival, braving a 9 a.m. start time, some hellish engineering works on public transport as well as moving house just to catch the Chicago funny man’s latest feature before it’s general release.

And he didn’t disappoint.

Based on the real life memoirs of Roosevelt’s distant cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley, director Roger Michell’s film lifts the veil on the oft chaotic private life of FDR while also reminding us how America and England’s special relationship wasn’t always so special.

It’s a gentle story really, that in modern terms is practically un-cinematic; events don’t lead inexorably to a dramatic and thrilling conclusion where everything that you’ve watched for the last hour is wrapped up in a crowd pleasing way.

Unless you count the King and Queen eating hotdogs as high drama.

Instead, Hyde Park On Hudson is a light period comedy that seems to meander through one rather important weekend in Anglo-American relations without pretending to be anything that it’s not.

Laura Linney once again dons her crown as the queen of hollywood understatement in her role as Daisy, Samuel West plays the King of England who’ll no doubt cast minds back to Colin Firth stuttering his way through that Tom Hooper film which isn’t Les Miserables, and Peep Show’s Olivia Colman completes the supporting roles as his Queen Elizabeth.

But this film is all about Bill Murray as Franklin Roosevelt, and he doesn’t disappoint.

Although, if you’re expecting classic Bill comedy from the great man then Hyde Park On Hudson may not float your boat.

This is more Lost In Translation Bill, the prince of sad clowns who’s actually a pretty fine actor when he wants to be; and I’d go as far saying his incarnation as FDR might be Bill’s finest achievement as an actor.

The middle aged actor in mid-life crisis who seduces girls young enough to be his daughter always felt a little too much like art imitating life in Sofia Coppola’s brilliant film, as a lot of Bill’s roles tend to do.

When one man’s personality is this entertaining, why do anything else?

But in Hyde Park On Hudson, I simply forgot that was Bill Murray on the screen and bought into his nuanced portrayal of America’s 32nd President.

Of course, I should have learnt to expect the unexpected from Bill a long time ago, but it’s nice to see the old dog still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Hyde Park On Hudson won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but even in the welcome waning America and England’s special relationship, it’s nice to know my special relationship with Bill is as strong as ever.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

February 2013