Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
10Apr/130

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)

Not so much an enigma as a silhouetteAndrew LIKE BannerOne of the problems I run into reviewing films on DVD is that I do not have the benefit of a clean-slate.  I can avoid reviews for the first couple of weeks or so, but after some time has passed a general critical consensus forms.  For better or naught, the mob will center around an opinion.  This isn't on its face a bad thing but it does make for a scattering of difficult to write reviews.

I didn't run into that issue with Hyde Park on Hudson.  For all the talks of misplaced humor and unnecessary sexual gratification I thoroughly enjoyed it.  This isn't for my standard reasons of appreciating a bit of the unfiltered delight onscreen but for humble reasons relating to our brief existence more than anything else.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt saw us through one of the two crises that threatened the fabric of our Union, and he was burden to that pressure the same as the rest of us.

It is, perhaps, this films' fate to be relegated to the sidelines because it refuses to cowtow to the sort of pompous nature that we seem to feel our greatest leaders deserve.  Lincoln, about our greatest President, suffered from that sense of self-importance more than any other film last year.  That was still a decent flick, but not one that picked at the core of any of the participants.  Hudson, by focusing on a much more intimate set of moments, works much better by making its characters seem alone and human.  There are some viewers who may not want their heroes to be that but, too bad, they die the same as the rest of us.

I like the way that Roger Michell isolates the important from the crowd.  True influence above all others is very lonely.

I like the way that Roger Michell isolates the important from the crowd. True influence above all others is very lonely.

Which brings me to the first of many puzzling points regarding the backlash against this film.  Bill Murray, now no stranger to excellent dramatic performances, attempts and succeeds a remarkable embodiment of one of the most important Presidents.  While he is sequestered away at his Hyde Park hideout Murray maintains his melancholic humor throughout the visits from dignitaries foreign and domestic alike.  Given that this was a man who foresaw the coming conflict with German well in advance, I'd say that the weight of "We laugh, that we may not cry" is one that responded very well with the wheelchair-bound President.

This, I guess, does nothing to dissuade from the people that have decided to focus on one scene of sexual gratification from a willing participant in a sequence that would be tasteful for public access.  To them, Knock it off.

The sheer number of people I've read, somewhat unwillingly, talk about this moment between FDR and his sixth (say Great five times then say Grand and you'll get the scope of relation) cousin is disappointing.  Films are the culmination of their visual, audio, and performative elements.  Daisy (Laura Linney), caught in confusing moments that the film does expand on later, is the actual center of the film and not Murray.  She is the one that realizes the truth of power and the people who wield it, which is why most of the film takes place from her perspective and the way the film is presented.

This is another reminder of FDR's humanity I loved.  It's only in the right environment that his weaknesses could become strengths.  Politics just happened to be one of them.

This is another reminder of FDR's humanity I loved. It's only in the right environment that his weaknesses could become strengths. Politics just happened to be one of them.

This film isolates the performers.  Almost everyone inhabits their own space, especially the President, who is introduced with a large array of wires leading into the only quiet room of an already overcrowded house.  When Daisy and FDR are together they are still separated by natural existence like leaves reflecting on a window, plants cutting between the two, or the simple glare of sunlight cutting their relationship in two.  Even the caretakers, FDR's wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) included among them, are kept out of frame even if their bodies are right there.

The powers of the Presidency are so vast and isolating that no one can come close to understanding just how isolating the effect is on whoever wields them.  This isn't to excuse the Presidents I hate, or praise the one's I admire (since this film is about one of them).  What it does, better than many other films, is showcase, as a film should do - visually - the lonely effect power has on those fortunate enough to have possession of it.  Murray and Linney both tune their performances in accordingly, leading to one late-film sequence that is brilliant in presenting the emotions that don't make the showcase.

There's nothing in this film that showcases itself in an unusual way - especially compared to the grotesque representations of desire that, for better or worse, are in the theater right now.  It doesn't matter if the film is true or not.  From top to bottom our country is filled with lonely people and their strange needs.  It applies to our leaders as well.

Hyde Park on Hudson - TailHyde Park on Hudson (2012)
Directed by Roger Michell.
Screenplay written by Richard Nelson.
Starring Bill Murray and Laura Linney.

Posted by Andrew

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