Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
Today I present for your consideration Hyde Park On Hudson (2012, Rated R, Available On DVD).
Franklin Roosevelt (Bill Murray) requests a visit from his distant cousin, Daisy Suckley (rhymes with bookly, played by Laura Linney), who helps him relax when he's visiting his family home, Springwood, in Hyde Park, New York. The visits turn into an affair, and before she knows it, Daisy finds herself involved in even greater affairs when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth travel to Hyde Park during 1939.
Hyde Park On Hudson is enjoyable enough. I like Laura Linney very much, and Bill Murray really captures the way Roosevelt positioned his head and held his cigarette. The movie humanizes the Roosevelt family and the King and Queen (the current Queen Elizabeth's parents). It's kind of amusing to see tiffs between family members because Roosevelt's mother didn't want him to serve cocktails. The King and Queen behave a bit irritably with one another, too. It's a good story.
But that's just it: It's a story. It bothers me when a movie purports to tell the truth about historical figures and then does no such thing.
SPOILER ALERT: Roosevelt had an intense emotional involvement with Daisy and with his secretary, Missy LeHand, and with some other women, too. FDR liked the ladies. He had an affair with Eleanor's social secretary, Lucy Mercer, during World War I. But did he have affairs with a multitude of women while he was President? No proof exists. Did Daisy give FDR a hand job while they were out for a drive? Not likely. The story is supposed to be based on Daisy's diaries and letters. Her diary doesn't say there was an affair, or a hand job, or anything else except a very close and loving friendship. Although some mishaps occurred during the King and Queen's visit, I can't imagine that the Roosevelts allowed the King and Queen to hear them quarreling. I doubt if the Queen picked on the King when they were staying in the Roosevelt family home. When the King and Queen are on their way to Hyde Park, the King is portrayed as getting out of the car to have a cigarette and waving to a farmer, who ignores him. I guess it's supposed to be funny. In reality, crowds greeted George VI and Elizabeth everywhere they went. FDR was not able to walk with crutches or canes, and he couldn't get out of his wheelchair and lean on furniture to propel himself around as the movie shows him doing. At the end of the movie, Daisy says that Missy was so important to FDR that he was leaving her half his estate if he predeceased her. Well, he did -- predecease Missy, that is. Although Missy was an invalid when FDR died, he left his entire estate to his wife, Eleanor. The movie even shows Daisy and Missy becoming close friends, while both are having adulterous relationships with FDR. That's pretty ridiculous. It is true, however, that Lucy Mercer, who became Mrs. Rutherford, visited FDR at The White House when Eleanor was away. She was with him in Warm Springs, Georgia, when he died, as was Daisy. Eleanor Roosevelt felt devastated when she learned that Franklin had been seeing Lucy, and that Franklin and Eleanor's daughter Anna helped arrange the visits. Franklin had promised he would never see Lucy again. END OF SPOILER ALERT
I think what's lacking in this moving – in addition to the truth – is the Roosevelt family's aristocratic air. The actress who plays Eleanor (Olivia Williams) doesn't even attempt to reproduce her voice and mannerisms. In catching them as regular folks, the filmmaker doesn't keep in mind that the Roosevelts weren't regular folks at all. The father figure who gave away the bride at their wedding was none other than Eleanor's uncle, Teddy Roosevelt, who happened to be the President of the United States at the time. This is no ordinary family.
This movie is not for children. I think it would bore teens and give them misguided notions about U.S. history.
I hereby grant Hyde Park On Hudson The Janie Junebug Half-Assed Seal of Approval. Watch at risk of being confused. Though maybe you prefer lies to the truth. A lot of people do.
A break from reality can feel good. That's why I don't completely disapprove of Hyde Park On Hudson.
Infinities of love,