Hyde Park on Hudson centers upon the visit made by King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Consort Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) to Roosevelt in 1939, the first visit to the U.S. ever made by a British monarch. Taking place only months before the beginning of World War II, the film gives an overview of the budding "special relationship" between England and the U.S.
It's witnessed (mostly) through the eyes of Margaret (Laura Linney), the President's distant cousin and lover. The film opens with Margaret and FDR reuniting and quickly becoming more than distant relatives.
Director Roger Michell and writer Richard Nelson only stick to this narrative device as is convenient, however – a standout scene shows a private conversation between King George VI and Roosevelt that Margaret had no part of. On the other hand, a subsequent major story twist is built on Margaret's limited view of the world around her. Not being shackled to a cohesive narrative makes for an entertaining, yet fairly shallow story.
The cast carries the film well, although West and Colman are predictably not given nearly as much to do as Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter were in The King's Speech. (British royalty, in this film, are the same sort of hearty stereotypes as the Hollywood stars were in director Michell's Notting Hill.)
Laura Linney's character isn't much more than a surrogate for the audience into the world of politics, but the actress keeps her Laura Linney-ness from intruding too much. None of which really matters because this is, without a doubt, Murray's film. In fact, it's hard to imagine the movie succeeding if a different actor carried it.
Hyde Park on Hudson feels in some ways like a feature-length trailer for a more substantial movie. To its credit, that may be all that audiences want from it. Amidst the melodrama of Oscar season and the U.S. elections, the President, as played by Bill Murray in a tuxedo, shaking up martinis, may be exactly who audiences want to vote for. (Alliance)