Roger Michell’s “Hyde Park on Hudson” is a curiously flat rendering of the alleged love affair between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his cousin, Daisy, and the weekend visit to the president’s titular home by the king of England.
It’s difficult to tell exactly where the picture went wrong. For starters, Roosevelt is played by the ever-watchable Bill Murray, while Daisy is portrayed by Laura Linney. Both Murray and Linney are wonderful actors and do their best to bring their characters to life, but they are given little to do. Their friendship – if you could call it that – is the key to the movie and it is underwritten.
The film is centered around a visit to Hyde Park on Hudson by the king and queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman), who hope to drum up U.S. support on the eve of World War II.
The picture’s best scenes are those spent in Roosevelt’s study during which he and the king smoke, drink and discuss the public’s view of their disabilities – that is, Roosevelt’s inability to walk and the king’s stutter.
The film’s one long-running joke involving the royal family having to eat hot dogs during a picnic being thrown by the president and the first lady (Olivia Williams as a lively Eleanor) is less successful.
“Hyde Park on Hudson” is not a bad film, per se, just an aimless one.
And yet the film has more reason for being than, say, “Playing for Keeps,” a romantic dramedy centered around the world of sports that pulls out all the clichés.
In the film, Gerard Butler plays George, a former soccer superstar turned deadbeat who is struggling to find work as a sportscaster and spend time with his kid. His ex-wife (Jessica Biel), with whom he is, of course, still in love, rolls her eyes at his antics and lack of responsibility.
But she’s the only one. Once George takes over as the coach of his kid’s team, the soccer moms – Catherine Zeta Jones, Judy Greer and Uma Thurman – throw themselves at him with reckless abandon, while one of the dads (Dennis Quaid) attempts to use George's former fame to bring in some business of his own.
Let me just get this off my chest: the numerous – and I mean, numerous – scenes of Zeta Jones, Greer and Thurman going to great lengths to get Butler to fool around with them are a bit creepy, especially when considering that the film’s only other female character (Biel) comes off as stodgy and grouchy.
As in most films of this type, George must make a choice whether to stick around and be there for his son or take a sportscaster job in another state.
There are far worse films of this type with which you could spend a few hours, but that’s not much of an endorsement. “Keeps” plays by the rules from start to finish.