By William Wolf

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2012--HYDE PARK ON HUDSON  Send This Review to a Friend

Franklin Delano Roosevelt spent lots of time in a wheelchair, but that didn’t seem to hobble his sex life. When he was president the press gave him the free pass that wasn’t given to President Clinton. Forget the sex. He was rarely photographed as handicapped. With Bill Murray giving a credible seem-alike portrait of Roosevelt, the sex part of his life is spotlighted in “Hyde Park on Hudson,” sophisticatedly directed by Roger Michell from a screenplay by Richard Nelson.

The catalyst for the rather quaint yarn is Margaret “Daisy” Suckley, a cousin of FDR, played by the ever-remarkable, luminous actress Laura Linney. The story is told from her perspective, which includes the closeness that develops between her and Roosevelt. She becomes intimate with him, and Linney captures the delicacy involved and the possessive feelings she develops.

Jealousy erupts when she discovers that Roosevelt is also dallying with another, his aide Missy (Elizabeth Marvel). Meanwhile, Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams) ignores her husband’s philandering. Also on the scene is Franklin’s mother (Elizabeth Wilson).

The film gets a classy lift with the arrival of the king and queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman), an important visit meant to cement relations and gain support for Britain on the brink of World War II. Humor is derived from plans for an American-style picnic at which hot dogs will be served, much to the initial disdain of the royals, who are depicted getting acquainted with the ways of the president and his entourage.

The film succeeds in creating the period and the atmosphere at Hyde Park, thanks in large measure to the cinematography of Lol Crawley and the production design of Simon Bowles. The performance by Murray fits right into the picture. He has mastered the Roosevelt poses with which the world is familiar--cigarette holder the perfect Roosevelt prop. It is also poignant to see the president moving about with difficulty and having to drive his car with hand controls. Murray gets all of this down pat, and we get a sense of what it was like for FDR in meeting the daily physical challenges. As for the extra-marital sex, more power to him. A Focus Features release.


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