I would never have guessed Bill Murray would portray a U.S. president, but in 'Hyde Park on Hudson' he plays our 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, flawlessly. At first, I had to get used to Murray taking on such an intense role, but his performance is award worthy and he handles it with ease. This small glimpse into the life of the charismatic, yet secretive president is something to be seen, if only once.
This is not a long, drawn out account of the life and career of FDR. Rather, it follows the small time frame of when Roosevelt hired his 6th cousin, Margaret "Daisy" Suckley (Laura Linney) to aid him in whatever decisions he needed to make. This includes keeping him happy from day to day, making sure he is always the center of attention, and a few sexual favors. All of this takes place at his country home as he is sharing the house with his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) and his elderly mother.
We see a bit of the movie through the eyes of Daisy as she feels like the luckiest and most loved woman in the world, due to FDR treating her like a queen. However, she notices that she is not the only mistress, as Roosevelt's secretary Marguerite “Missy” LeHand (Elizabeth Marvel) is also having relations with the president. This situation takes a backseat to the main event, which has King George VI (made famous by Colin Firth in 'The King's Speech') and a young Queen Elizabeth vacation to FDR's country home at the request of FDR himself.
All roads lead to an important all-American picnic, for which FDR insists the main course be hot dogs. As they are on the brink of war, the Queen is rather uncomfortable with these arrangements, however the Americans can see that the King and Queen are enjoying good old fashioned American food, so perhaps tensions will ease.
The relationship between Roosevelt and Daisy is lovely to see, however the best parts of the film are when FDR and King George (Samuel West) are smoking, drinking, and talking about their ailments. They have an instant bond, and we see that King George does not have a stick up his ass like the Queen does. One of the best lines in the film that shows their instant bond was when the King says, “This goddamned stutter," to which Roosevelt replied, "What stutter?" The two have a good laugh and go on and on through the evening.
Linney shines as Daisy, and you really feel for her character as she is tossed to the side, then asked to come back into the inner circle of the president. However, there are bigger things at work here. The star is of course Bill Murray. He's a bit mysterious, a bit fun, a bit mad, and quite charming. This is very different for Murray, and he nails the role. A lot of the comedy in the picture comes from Olivia Colman's portrayalof Queen Elizabeth. Her extreme politeness and determination to be the most proper person in the world makes for some laughs in the FDR home.
Roger Michell's direction captures the late 1930s perfectly, with all of the production sets, design, costumes, and makeup having great detail. That, and Murray's performance make this well worth a look.
'Hyde Park on Hudson' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
The image itself looks beautiful. It seems like a lot of natural lighting was used. Sometimes the picture might look softened up a bit, but I think that is only due to the pastel-like colors used throughout and the natural light. That being said, the detail is is very good here, especially with closeups and in the outdoor scenes as they drive up the hillsides and look at the flowers and trees. It gives a great sense of depth to the image. The black levels are deep and shadow detail is very good. The flesh tones were natural and smooth, although you could tell that Murray was in makeup.
I did notice any evidence of banding, image blur, or artifacts, which makes this a solid video presentation.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix that sounds fairly good for what it has to work with.
This is a very dialogue driven film, with a very small amount of sound effects and ambient noises. The dialogue is crystal clear and always easy to understand. It's all situated evenly in the center channel. I did not notice any directionality with the dialogue through the film. The surrounds provide a bit of ambient noise, and it comes through nicely, however it isn't that often. The biggest sounds come when Roosevelt drives his car, and in the picnic scene as we can hear the motor of his old car running as the bass kicks in. Also with the picnic scene, we can hear chatter from the guests and nature sounds all around the speakers, making it seem like we are smack dab in the middle of the moment.
This audio track won't impress you, but as I said, it sounds great for what it is.
'Hyde Park on Hudson' is a beautifully crafted film and Bill Murray is amazing as Roosevelt. He has so much charm and wit, that you can't help but fall in love with him despite his flaws. I don't imagine this is the type of film you would watch very often. The video and audio won't turn any heads, but they're solid presentations, and there are a couple of decent extras. Worth a look.