Saturday, December 29
REVIEW: Hyde Park on Hudson
Directed by Roger Michell
1 hour 34 minutes
From Focus Features
I shared the planet with Franklin D. Roosevelt for 158 days. My family lore says that as my mother was carrying me home that day in April, 1945, a neighbor yelled at her that FDR had died. My mother was so ecstatic that she apparently lifted me in the air and looking up at me said, "Son, this is a great, great day." I had so many relatives in those days, all very happy being Republicans. My mother actually had little recollection of anyone ever being president except FDR.
I gave it my all to break with the Republican stronghold in my family although there wasn't a lot I could say being one in a sea of the formidable from the dark side. As I studied about presidents and government over the years, I took a special liking to FDR. I knew he was certainly unpopular with more than just my family but always concluded more must have liked him or he wouldn't have been reelected so many times. There was no middle on Roosevelt. Kind of reminds one of today.
I took the time to say quite nice things about Roosevelt every time I read something about him and also in later years when I saw theatrical or TV movies about him. Too bad my mama isn't still around because I would have delighted in phoning her again and telling her there's a good movie out about him. Beware the truculent son.
Actually Hyde Park on Hudson is not altogether a good or poor movie, but it is one I quite liked. After all, I love my period stuff and biographical stories and it is a little art house type of film which floats my boat. So much is made these days about the long length of movies and I want to jump in there, too... with a twist. This film falls a bit flat because it is too short. There was more that could have been fleshed out than was done in the brief 94 minutes.
It takes place on a weekend in 1939 at the Roosevelt estate, Springwood, in Hyde Park, NY. It centers on two stories. One is the affair between a crippled FDR and his sixth cousin. She spends most of her time with FDR and the household knows what's going on and pays no mind. Also in regular attendance is another FDR mistress along with his wife, Eleanor, also a cousin and a lesbian who has her own mistress (although only referred to briefly). FDR's imperious, manipulative mother is also around. It all might have seemed very chic and clever in 1939 but today, let's face it, they would all be on The Jerry Springer Show.
That 94 minutes might have been stretched out some by elaborating a little more about FDR and his relationship with all these women, any one of whom could have been the subject of her own film. Maybe we could have at least had a glimpse of the Hudson River. It felt like most everything was done in shorthand. I have been to Springwood and can say the estate they used in the film looked nothing like it, which I think is too bad.
Some of the best moments were between the King and Queen and also the King and FDR. Regarding the latter there was some delightful lightweight chatter but shouldn't there have been just a little more about the dark times these men dealt with?
All of the actors get a gold star. I will bow to popular opinion and single out Murray's performance. For someone who has made a career of comedy and cynicism, he did do a fine job. Trouble is, for me, again, he didn't do enough of it.
I did very much like the look and comfy feel of the film. It really did seem like I was visiting along with the royal couple.
RIP Harry Carey Jr.