Michael C here with my first dispatch from the 50th New York Film Festival. First up is one of the Fall's two big president-starring prestige pictures.
Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson is a perfect example of that particular type of high-end, finely crafted period piece that hits theaters every autumn on its way to an Oscar nomination for Costume Design. These titles exist to provide awards voters with two hours of comfort food nostalgia wrapped in a thin packaging of historical significance. In recent years this subgenre has provided us with films like Finding Neverland, Mrs. Henderson Presents, and My Week With Marilyn. This year it’s Hyde Park on the Hudson, a film on the low end of this particular style. To call it a dud would be too harsh - kinder to say that it’s a missed opportunity.
The story is narrated by Daisy (Laura Linney), FDR’s devoted mistress as well as his fifth or sixth cousin, depending on how you count. Their courtship leads to the presidential handjob scene that America was undoubtedly clamoring for, (ball’s in your court Lincoln) presented in a montage that verges on the unintentionally hilarious in the extent to which it goes to remain tastefully inoffensive. Think close-ups of wild flowers while the sound of FDR’s limo a-rockin’ is heard off-screen.
The set up: With the threat of World War II looming, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) have embarked on the first ever journey to America by British royalty in the hopes a meeting with Franklin Roosevelt (Bill Murray) at his upstate New York getaway can persuade the Americans to intervene. Other major players in the story include FDR’s busybody mother (Elizabeth Wilson), his stalwart assistant (Elizabeth Marvel) and the brash and outspoken Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams) who has little patience for the pomp and etiquette of royalty. All her bows are unmistakably sarcastic.