The last time King George VI was portrayed on screen, he came across as a reluctant hero who eventually captured the nation’s heart. Colin Firth and The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper can sleep easy at night, knowing that they’ve done good. However, the latest film by Roger Michell may change this positive perspective, while trying to showcase the dramatic side of his cast.
Hyde Park on Hudson is a biographical film, based on the diaries of Margaret Suckley, Theodore Roosevelt’s distant cousin. Based in 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) pay a visit to US President Theodore Roosevelt (Bill Murray), in an attempt to gain his support against the Nazis. In the background is Roosevelt’s innocent relative, Margaret ‘Daisy’ Suckley (Laura Linney), who witnesses the growing confusion amongst Roosevelt household, not to mention struggle with her own affections for the President.
On the surface of it, the latest feature from the director of Venus and Enduring Love has promise during this year’s award season – it’s a period piece with a stellar cast, set at an important time in history. Unfortunately, it seems to fall flat on its feet due to a lack of plot structure and quality dialogue. Easily targeted for certain audiences, the film fails to effectively engage the viewer into the plights of its characters by focussing on lesser plot elements; it is almost like the director has tried to fill out the key plot line – Daisy’s complex relationship with Roosevelt – with petty squabbles and discussions of class hierarchy. There is also a certain lack of chemistry between the characters, especially between Murray and Linney, whose relationship only just comes across as perverse.
However, the attraction to Hyde Park on Hudson – aside from the lush cinematography, courtesy of Lol Crawley – is easily its cast. Bill Murray reminds us that he can be dramatic yet almost whimsical as Roosevelt and Linney is quietly sweet as Daisy, who is catapulted into this new role without knowing the expectations of her standing. Colman and West are slightly amusing, but with the huge success of The King’s Speech overshadowing their portrayals of the Royals, they fail to pack a punch.
Beautiful to watch with quality actors, Hyde Park on Hudson will get you in your seat. But the poor plot and non-convicting dialogue might make you want to leave it.
Hyde Park on Hudson is in cinemas on 1st February 2013.
Director: Roger Michell
Writer: Richard Nelson
Stars: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Samuel West
Runtime: 94 min