Hyde Park on Hudson full movie review - Great illustration of the Hudson River life at Springwood
"Hyde Park on Hudson" is an entertaining fictional snapshot into the life of President Franklin Roosevelt, the home of his mother Sara, his family and staff; which takes advan
tage of the situational opportunity of the first June 7-12th, 1939 visit of the British Monarch and Queen, to the United States. This film is not a flash and jingles film, so it may disappoint many who come into this movie expecting a song and dance - especially as it is seen through the narrative of FDR's affection interest, the affable but shy Daisy portrayed by Laura Linney. This movie is great, at once, for illustrating the Hudson River life of the New York aristocracy in 1939. Bill Murray does a stupendous job of taking the oft times stereotypical portrayal of the 32nd President of the US and turning the man into a living and breathing individual with character flaws and aspirations for the summer of '39. Olivia Williams also brings to life First Lady Eleanor in a way that warms her to the viewer and rejects history's cold perceptions of this famous Lady Activist.
Many people presume the rambunctious portrayal of FDR by Edward Hermann in 1982's "Annie" to be a valid likeness. But Murray's Roosevelt turns away from the cartoonish man, and brings to vivid vision a gentleman that is not only marooned in his own bubble, but brilliantly illustrates the difficulty of his physical handicap and all of the challenges presented by his body's limitations. This role for Murray is quite valid for a man of many talents, and those who expect a "Ghostbuster" rendition are better apt to spare those history loving moviegoers by seeing a lesser film.
"Hyde Park on Hudson" takes place at the Roosevelt Family home Springwood above the Hudson River, and all of the scenes take place in or around the roads to, grounds and Springwood estate. The photography of the landscapes is vivid and details to color are apparent as the green and blue hues of land and sky are dazzling. In sequences at the middle of the film, the night sky is luminous for the juxtaposition of the darkened heavens against the gleam of star and full moon is beautiful and is photographed in a way quite unlike any other cinematic night sky has been seen.
The Celia Bobak set design of Springwood is brought to vivid invitation for the viewer. And unlike other historical fiction films like "Lincoln," where the warmth of the White House is obliterated to a cold stereotypical portrayal of a faded and ugly black and white photograph, the home of Sara Roosevelt is stunning. The Study of FDR is one of the rooms in which calls out to the book lover, as the walls are graced by book shelves elegantly merged with utility of a workroom that serves also as a retreat for a professional man. The Living Room and Dining Room of the home are also lit by lighting technician Adrian Mackay in ways that highlight the textures of the furniture, beautiful wall paper, and even the chinaware used in the dinner sequence. The script itself is also filled with apropos use of details that could only be found at that moment in time, for example the joke concerning Mrs. Astor's Chinaware.
Of course the screen play must take license in recreating the dialogue of people long passed. However, the conversational interactions of the characters are both apt and agreeable to the house and staff of FDR. Of course, the writers and viewers would never truly know what was said in the bedroom chambers of Edward VI and the Queen Mother, but subtle insight is envisioned much in the same manner of the private home scenes as portrayed by Helen Mirren in "The Queen." Sadly as a film that does so much to illustrate the course of days experienced by the Royal visit to the Roosevelt family home, the film falls far short in the lunch scene at Top Cottage. There, despite the overall attention to detail, the Indian dances, songs, and costuming are both cartoonish, and terribly stereotypical. It is almost a shame to Eleanor Roosevelt and her attempts that day to bring to life Native Indian America for the Royals that the film makers would use such cheap roadside show regalia, and encourages the slight that FDR purges upon the dancers and singers as he interrupts them to stop.
Aside from this, the narration of Daisy is charming; even as we experience the obvious truth that FDR was a polyamorous man, and that Daisy herself was a part of a larger hierarchy of women-in-waiting to the 32nd President. Linney's portrayal of the shy woman is agreeable, and at the end of the day, the viewer is grateful for her experience at Springwood in the summer of '39. Though this film is narrated in most part via the lens of the Linney's Daisy, the film itself is mostly about the life, at that time, at the Roosevelt Estate. FDR, Sara Roosevelt, Eleanor, Daisy, the Monarchs and the staff and flavor of the Hudson River summer experience are brought to life in "Hyde Park on Hudson" in a refreshing manner. In turn this film definitely is an enjoyable entertainment, and a welcomed portrayal of Franklin Roosevelt the man. Though, the script takes on the slow rhythm of a NY summer, the viewer is enlightened to experience FDR the man, with his shortfalls and handicap. And for this we can certainly be thankful to Daisy. Cheers!