Hyde Park on Hudson is a frustratingly silly story

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Starring Bill Murray and Laura Linney. Rated PG.

Is it possible for actors to do well in a movie without having any idea how dreadful it actually is? On the evidence of Hyde Park on Hudson, it seems more than likely.

Bill Murray turns out to be an inspired choice to portray Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the peak of his powers, on the eve of the Second World War. He easily adopts the patrician airs and distinctive vocal mannerisms of the man who pulled America out of the Great Depression and kept his polio—and multiple mistresses—out of the public eye.

Unfortunately, this frustratingly silly story focuses not on FDR but on his tangential relationship with distant cousin Daisy, played by Laura Linney. Her washed-out character is pretty forgettable, so screenwriter Richard Nelson and director Roger Michell (Notting Hill and Venus) try to compensate by giving her a deeply unnecessary voice-over, ranging from “That morning, we went for a drive” to “That was the day everything changed.”

It is a busy calendar to keep track of, since several women not married to the president (Olivia Williams, plus extra teeth, plays Eleanor) are determined to prove he’s still in command from the waist down. So when a desperate British royal family comes calling in the summer of 1939, crown jewels practically in hand, it’s just another bit of fun to fit into the schedule.

Samuel West and Olivia Colman don’t exactly embarrass themselves as the new King George and his wife, Elizabeth. But whatever his highness learned from Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech seems to have escaped him. This Bertie stammers in front of his wife and everybody else, even before he’s forced to eat a hot dog for the gathered press—something hilarious enough to discuss during three different scenes and in Daisy’s verbal diary. Clearly, this was the wiener that won the war. And lost the audience along the way.

Watch the trailer for Hyde Park on Hudson.
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