In its trailer, Hyde Park on Hudson promised to be a light-hearted film about King George’s first visit to America, and his stay at President Roosevelt’s house. This it does deliver, though it also follows the plot that Roosevelt was having an affair with his distant cousin around the same time.
With these mismatched plot lines overlapping, the audience are left wondering who they’re supposed to be identifying with, and which plot is the focus of the film. Although Hudson’s screenplay was based around the original letters found containing details of the alleged affair, combining the romantic plot with the royals seems farfetched.
With a cast led by Bill Murray as Roosevelt, expectations were high upon starting the film, but as it things progress it is clear that Murray’s portrayal isn’t anything that can be celebrated. In a clear case of miscasting, Murray’s Franklin Roosevelt isn’t believable as a strong president, but instead shown as a weak child whose mother controls his life, undermining the historical position of the film. While it sells itself alongside such films as The King’s Speech, the portrayal of these historical figures are left so thin, having been recreated without conviction, that any potential the narrative once had is lost.
Without a strong character to lead the plot the film is left with underwhelming characters, and the result is something that is, frankly, slow to watch. The film does accentuate the differences between the Royals and the president and his family once they meet, but as it paints their relationship in a good light it leaves the American’s as the superior father figure for the new King, something that will prove to be a contentious message for some.
As for the positives, they are few and far between, the most prominent probably being the costume design, which cannot be faulted for the time period they were trying to reconstruct. However, this does not make up for a rather uninspiring script, which appears to be trying to do far too much, and its disappointing performances, especially that of Bill Murray. Whether the film is aiming to be a romantic or a dramatic take on historical events is open to question. Either way, it falls short on both accounts.