BASED on the private journals of Margaret Lynch Suckley, a distant relative of Franklin D Roosevelt, Roger Michell’s misfiring comedy recalls an important meeting between America and Britain on the eve of the Second World War.
This highly charged period in history should provide a vibrant backdrop to Hyde Park On Hudson as two nations prepared for a protracted conflict with Germany.
Instead, Michell’s film largely ignores impending doom to focus on personal relationships at the New York country estate where President Roosevelt prepared to welcome King George VI and his wife Elizabeth.
It was the first visit across the Atlantic by a reigning British monarch and the eyes of the world were fixed on Hudson Valley in the summer of 1939.
Our eyes, meanwhile, search for structure in Richard Nelson’s muddled script, which brings together these historical figures but fails to milk emotion from their turmoil.
Feverish media interest is glimpsed through the eyes of Daisy (Laura Linney), who describes herself as fifth or sixth cousin to the president.
Living in obscurity with her aunt (Eleanor Bron), Daisy is summoned to the side of the 32nd president (Bill Murray, pictured) in the hope that she can take his mind off the hoopla surrounding the British royals (Samuel West, Olivia Colman).
Daisy arrives at the house with preparations in full swing, masterminded by Franklin’s mother, Mrs Roosevelt (Elizabeth Wilson), and his acid-tongued wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams).
Daisy develops a close bond to Franklin and they become lovers. “He said I helped him forget the whole weight of the world,” she confides.
However, Daisy isn’t Franklin’s only means of distraction and she must learn to share him with others in his inner social circle.
Hyde Park On Hudson boasts a stellar cast, who strain every sinew to wring laughter and tears from Nelson’s script.
Murray has a twinkle in his eye as the elderly statesman who rides roughshod over people’s emotions but demonstrates a gentle touch with his British guests when he tells George behind closed doors: “You are going to be a very fine king. Your father would be very proud.”
West and Colman are memorable in roles essayed by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in Oscar winner The King’s Speech but Linney is underused and deserves better. And so do we.