Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Cinema File #85: "Hyde Park On Hudson" Review

I've now officially seen both FDR centric films of 2012, and while the more mainstream effort Hyde Park On Hudson is a decent if somewhat low energy romp through presidential history, I can safely say that it is not nearly as good as the one where he fights werewolves in a rocket launching wheelchair.

Hyde Park On Hudson tells the story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's historic meeting with the King and Queen of Britain on the eve of World War II through the eyes of his fifth cousin and mistress. Yes, as it happens, FDR was not content in just boning one of his distant cousins (and marrying her), but apparently felt the need to make kind-of-sort-of-definite incest a thing he was particularly known for. I guess he thought Polio, WWII, and the New Deal weren't enough, I don't know. The subject is brought up somewhat delicately with a mention that everyone is somehow related to everyone else in the small region they all live in, and evidently this was just more acceptable back then, even if I never quite bought that explanation in High School History class.

These sorts of salacious details are not really the subject of Hyde Park On Hudson for the most part, as it instead very lazily whiles away its time appreciating its scenery and homespun gentility, perhaps trying to instill in me the same kind of quiet contentment with the movie that FDR himself is said to feel about his upstate New York summer home. We get a lot of long drives through very pretty meadows, extended scenes about stamp collecting, and a lot of talk about good manners and proper decorum. Ordinarily this is not the kind of movie I enjoy, and while I was by no means wowed by any of it (save one scene I'll talk about in a moment), I can't say it was at all unwatchable. I was never bored, which for a movie like this is really saying something. Often I found myself just letting go and embracing the breezy sweetness of it. And then Laura Linny gave FDR a handjob.

Now that sounds like some shit I just made up, because I'm the guy that talks about things like Elf Molestation and Superman Pooping, but no, that shit actually happens. Its certainly not hardcore or anything, and when I say its done tastefully, I mean it (and no, I don't mean she tastes any of it, get your mind out of the gutter). It was so subtle that at first I didn't realize that what I thought I saw was actually taking place. I assumed it was just my own prurient mind misinterpreting the situation, that this movie that up to this point had been so stayed and without incident would suddenly bust out presidential handies. But then it went on, just long enough to where there was no possible way you could interpret it as anything other than that. There's nothing else even remotely like this before or after it in the movie, and there doesn't have to be, because its so fucked up and out of nowhere that it instantly earned my respect.

Bill Murray's portrayal of Roosevelt is most likely the biggest draw of the film, and probably the only reason I was inclined to sit through it, and he does a good job as far as it goes. He doesn't really seem to be trying for an authentic accent similar to Roosevelt's, but his bearing and demeanor sell it well enough, and while it never occurred to me before he was cast in this, his meta-movie persona is kind of a perfect fit for the complicated figure. More often, Bill Murray in dramas just reminds me that he rarely does comedies anymore, and that he's the reason I have to settle for a Wii game for my Ghostbusters 3 fix, but as sad as that all makes me, I have to admit that he made the movie better than it otherwise would have been with anyone else in the role. The King and Queen are mostly present to drop their proverbial monocles into their tea at all the shockingly boorish Americaness they are experiencing, but since we are so far removed from a context in which any of this would be shocking, it just feels quaint. I found myself enjoying the King's gradual acceptance of American customs over his wife's objections, and I'd say the only real weak link is Linny, who is given a somewhat thankless role that demands her to be as bland as possible (handjobs aside).

Overall, Hyde Park On Hudson is most likely a bit too slow and trifling to merit a full-throated recommendation. When it tries to establish an atmosphere in which the audience is supposed to delight in the best laid plans of proper people falling apart, in the end it just falls flat as so little of what goes on has any real consequence. Oh no, the dishes broke! My word, the King's going to eat a hot dog? At one point, in a line that I'm pretty sure was in the trailer, FDR muses that he should have sold tickets to their state dinner and made a pile of money, but I can't for the life of me figure out what could have been so interesting. Its not bad for what it is, its just not a story of much import that I can justify declaring as anything close to a must-see. If you like this sort of low pressure period piece, its done well, but otherwise there's nothing here for the casual popcorn chomping moviegoer.

Now, if he'd given the royals a show and put his fifth cousin's hands to work, that would have been a whole different thing. They would have invented pay per view in 1939 just to put that shit on it.

UPDATE: Two things I forgot to mention. One, I'm pretty sure as someone who went to college for Political Science I should know little details like this, but I didn't know that FDR had a specially made car that he could drive without his feet, and that is pretty bad ass. I'm sure I heard that fact at some point and either forgot it, or dismissed it based on the implausibility of a dude in a wheelchair driving. Also, Two, I forgot to mention that Laura Linney's character's last name is Suckly. Seems like a missed opportunity considering the handy scene.Suggested Porn Parody Title: Hide Cock In Her End. Needs a bit of work, but wouldn't you want to see that shit?


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