Hyde Park On Hudson was a weird film, man. I really wanted it to be a prestige, Oscar-worthy biopic. But instead, it was a melange of disability and distaste and all I could think after watching it was is this what Sister Wives would be like if the husband had polio? The problem here is that I’m pretty sure Hyde Park On Hudson is supposed to be a bit more than that.
To be fair, this isn’t a story of polygamy. But polyamory, on the other hand, is prominently featured. FDR (Bill Murray plays the paraplegic prez) wasn’t married to anyone besides Eleanor (played superbly by Olivia Williams), who I’m pretty sure is a lesbian in this film. He was, however, involved (and I’m assuming, in love?) with more than one broad. Specifically his hand-job-giving, yet drab-pushover, fifth cousin Daisy (Laura Linney). Franklin was a player, polio paralysis and all. He had a harem of women who all knew about each other. They were like, friends. They willingly shared FDR and his disabled body. A more accurate title for this film would have been Paralyzed And Polyamorous.
While the film was beautifully shot, and the acting was what you would expect from Bill Murray and Laura Linney (a very standard “pretty good”), I was mostly confused while watching the drama—or lackthereof—unfold.
I honesty expected this film to be a lot less awkward and a lot less boring. And a lot less awkward.
Case in point: How do I know that Daisy jerked the prez off? There was a hand job scene! Take a moment to collect yourself.
Suffice to say that bizarre scene, enough to make even the boldest audience member squirm uncomfortably, is the most standout of the movie. That’s because the film is nothing more than a slow moving period piece that tries really hard to be simultaneously high brow and low brow by juxtaposing the special relationship America has with Britian with the “special” (incestual) relationship FDR had with Daisy. Unfortunately, this tactic doesn’t really work for Hyde Park.
What we end up with is a bizarre movie that makes it seem as though the fate of the free world in 1939 depended on hand jobs and hot dogs. Will Daisy allow herself to be sexually exploited by a man who can’t walk in order to keep him—and America—happy? What about after she finds out she’s not the only lady jerking the prez off? Will King George VI eat the hot dog, thus solidifying America’s alliance with Britain? And more importantly, will he use mustard? (There’s about as big a fuss made about BBQ fare as there is about FDR’s sexual indiscretion.)
Personally, I was about as uncomfortable during the film as I was that one time I walked in on my parents having sex (I was five and it happens to everyone so shut up). Accidentally seeing your parents engaged in the primal scene is something you can justify because it’s unintentional. I wish I could say the same for Hyde Park On Hudson, but I went willfully. Purposefully, even. I left the theater hungry and confused; simultaneously wanting a shower, some street meat, and an explanation as to why Bill Murray didn’t work more on perfecting his character’s accent.
(Photos: Nicola Dove/Focus Features, WENN.com)