Telluride 2012: Roger Michell's Delightful Film 'Hyde Park on Hudson'
by Alex Billington
September 2, 2012
In late 2010, after the film earned rave reviews, I finally caught The King's Speech at its very last screening in Toronto (my review). I was instantly amazed by it, and as we all know it went on to win Best Picture, for good reason. Director Roger Michell's Hyde Park on Hudson, a story about Franklin D. Roosevelt's meeting with the King and Queen of England in 1939, is sort of a sequel to The King's Speech - although I'm sure everyone involved in the production doesn't like that comparison. But it fits, and fits for good measure, because it's just as charming, wonderful, and entertaining as The King's Speech, but in all of its own ways.
The very light, charming, delightful story focuses on Margaret Suckley, played by Laura Linney, the "5th cousin" of FDR, whom he was very fond of. After inviting her over to his mother's residence at Hyde Park on Hudson, he takes a liking to her, saying that she takes the weight of the world off of his shoulders just by being around him. They continue to develop a relationship just as King George VI and the Queen of England visit America for the first time in history in hopes of convincing America to join WWII. The true, secret, story was confirmed by actual love letters and notes found beneath Margaret's bed after she passed away.
Out of almost everything I've been able to see this entire year, Hyde Park on Hudson is one of the most stunningly beautifully photographed films I've seen yet (Lol Crawley is the director of photography). The cinematography is simply luscious, every last frame is gorgeous. Every single shot and scene is exquisitely composed and blocked, never overbearing or too flashy, simply just an outstanding arrangement of shots and actors taking advantage of their surroundings. Whenever I discover a film with cinematography that I can't stop staring at in complete awe, it always takes it to another level. But that's not all this film excels at.
Bill Murray as FDR is fantastic. Having seen Murray in so many roles over many years, we've almost come to expect him to always be the same. But in Hyde Park, it's truly a transformative performance. Of course I've never met FDR myself and can't say it's perfectly accurate to who he was, but I was convinced. It never felt like I was watching Murray, it felt like I was watching FDR, his mannerisms, the way he dealt with his polio and physically disabilities both privately and publicly. Not just that, but his interactions with other characters, with everyone surrounding him. Especially his interactions with Linney and the King of England.
To connect things full circle with The King's Speech again, my favorite moments of the entire movie were when King George VI (played by Samuel West) and the Queen (played by Olivia Colman) arrived. It's here where it briefly takes a more lighter, comical route while still focusing on the massive concerns of two dignitaries meeting just before WWII erupts across Europe. There is an incredible scene where the King and FDR, drinking late into the night, talk privately together. The dialogue in the scene was enlivening, I was completing engrossed, lingering on every last word each one was saying, thinking about what it all meant, not only to these two men but also the future of the entire world. One of many excellent scenes in the film.
While at first I almost wished Colin Firth was back as the stuttering King George VI, Samuel West certainly held his own, and it was an absolute delight. It's "sort of" a sequel to The King's Speech because it almost picks up right where The King's Speech leaves off, but obviously set in America instead with a focus on his interactions with FDR. Suffice it to say, if you loved that movie, you'll probably love this, too. Just like I did.
Alex's Telluride Rating: 8 out of 10