Good news: Bill Murray’s performance as FDR in “Hyde Park on Hudson” is as amazing as you hope it is. Bad news: The movie it’s surrounded by is not.
There’s a fine movie hiding in there, but it’s lost in a film that can’t decide what it wants to be. The frustration lies in wishing it had stuck with the good stuff for the duration.
In June 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Murray) and his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) are planning the historic first visit of a reigning king and queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) to their home in upstate New York.
We view this historic meeting through the eyes of Daisy (Laura Linney), FDR’s neighbor (and mistress). Oh, and you’ve also got the looming war in Europe. So that.
That’s a lot of moving parts for a movie that comes in at a tidy 94 minutes. Director Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”) can’t focus the tone or subject matter enough for a cohesive whole.
The film works best, interestingly, as cultural comedy, particularly the play between FDR and King George. It has a whimsical charm that belies the weight of importance this meeting held in world affairs.
Conversely, the relationship between Daisy and FDR never gains the traction it deserves. It feels like a distraction or, perhaps, the subject of another movie.
Murray’s performance, however, is worth seeing. It’s a shame the film framing it isn’t better, as he’ll likely get lost in a crowded Oscar race.