Somehow, it isn’t at all surprising that a president–especially one as generally well respected by history as Franklin Delano Roosevelt–would have a mistress. Or perhaps mistresses. Which may be part of the point of the movie Hyde Park on Hudson: to portray FDR as a regular, flawed man, and not the overblown four-time leader of the free world that he sometimes is viewed as.
The story is based on the diaries and journals of Margaret “Daisy” Suckley, FDR’s sixth cousin. These manuscripts weren’t discovered until her death at the age of 100 in 1991. In them, surprising stories were told of her–and apparently others’–intimate relationships with FDR.
The film focuses on the June 1939 visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the summer home FDR and his mother shared: the Springwood Estate at Hyde Park, NY. The King had been sent expressly by the British government to ask for American support in the likely event that Britain would become involved in World War II. FDR knew this, but he and his mother worked to make the visit a low-key affair, which put the royals on their heels a bit.
Intertwined in this is Daisy’s love affair with FDR, the discovery of an affair by the president and his secretary, and a disclosed third mistress, along with the arrival of his wife Eleanor, and the whole event takes on comic and dramatic overtones, even when it’s supposed to be an important meeting of the two countries.
All told, it’s a wonderful film. Laura Linney is, as always, simultaneously proper, dramatic, and nervous. But Bill Murray’s FDR is remarkable. Nothing is over the top, and yet you almost feel like the character is being properly played as a caricature. He’s convincing, but in the dramatic parts and in the comedic parts of the movie. And what’s even better is that everyone’s character, while played with deserving weight, seems almost effortless and light, making the 95 minute movie move along quickly.
If you’re into the docudrama kind of thing, enjoy great stretches of dialog, and well-played acting, then this movie is definitely for you. Four out of Five Stars.
See you tomorrow.