One wishes there was a little more focus to this jaunty historical tale from the director of Morning Glory and Venus. There is some wry verve to some of the performances in this key union between the U.S. and Great Britain to what may seem to some as a follow-up to the much-lauded award-winning The King's Speech.
Roger Michell's Hyde Park on Hudson stars Bill Murray and Laura Linney with the former as FDR, the formidable 32nd U.S. President and the latter a rather intimate confidante and distant cousin, Margaret 'Daisy' Suckley. Daisy keeps an eye and is the vantage point for the unusual relationship between the Chief Executive and his strong-willed wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams, who was very good opposite Murray a while back in Rushmore).
During a weekend in June 1939 Britain's King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) informally approach Pres. Roosevelt about abandoning an isolationist policy when it comes to supporting Europe from the imminent Nazi power growing from Adolf Hitler.
Narration is offered a fair amount of the time from Daisy as the more subdued Linney is obviously a talented, competent thespian. But, the timid nature of Daisy (who has no subtext) leave her little empathy as the point of view of the royals with West in particular standing out in edgy and sensitively wry strokes. That earns more importance in the initiation of a relevant union. Furthermore, when it comes to the First Lady, Williams sadly plays second fiddle to the sometimes amusing, if perfunctory antics especially when it comes to carpentry and her "she-male"
From his physical technique in a tale inspired by actual events and Suckley's letters and diaries, Murray's idiosyncratic, cynical charm eventually wins out over what may be considered somewhat mannered and studied. Some of the drama touches a more meaningful chord, say, after a dinner shared by the polio-afflicted FDR and the King.
From Richard Nelson's script and Michell's unadventurous, easy-going approach (with smooth lived-in polish from his technical craftspeople) the way Daisy's life coalesces with a persuasion doesn't come across as provocative and poignant as it should have been. With Murray and West amusing us along with insults, hot dogs and Indian dancing it's still a rather amusing, harmless holiday treat.