Hyde Park on Hudson

Roger Michell's Hyde Park on Hudson is a beguiling film that's a study in the art of beguilement. The artist under consideration is Franklin Delano Roosevelt (a terrific Bill Murray) and the object of his attention is a distant cousin, Daisy, (Laura Linney in a wonderfully nuanced performance) who is beckoned by FDR's mother (Elizabeth Wilson) to come to the family home on the Hudson to "entertain" the president while Eleanor (Olivia Williams) is otherwise occupied. It soon becomes apparent how much "entertaining" the president needs and soon Daisy is his constant companion and occasional sleepover mate. Daisy is enamored of and devoted to the charismatic president, who is trying to lead the country through the agonizing depths of what we now call the Great Depression. But her long-held secret relationship with Roosevelt, much like FDR's physical condition, was shielded from public scrutiny. It was understood and accepted, even by the president's other paramours. The central action of this beautiful and revealing motion picture is a visit to the Roosevelt estate by King George (Samuel  West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), the parents of the current British monarch, in 1939 to ask America for help in fending off the inevitable attack from Nazi Germany. The royal visit is a festival of diplomatic near-disasters and faux pas but also includes a  tremendously insightful tete-a-tete between the two world leaders -- one of the finest bits of acting I've seen in a while. Michell, who I only know from his films Changing Lanes (2002) and Notting Hill (1999), has an marvelous eye for period detail, a mischievous wit, and a narrative intelligence that gently reveals what much of world is only now coming to know -- that a much beloved U.S. president, a historic icon and international hero was, in fact, a cad and scoundrel. It's a marvelous tale well-told. Recommended but the subject matter is mature.


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