Hotdog Diplomacy

Hyde Park on the Hudson: written by Richard Nelson; directed by Robert Michell; starring Bill Murray (Franklin Delano Roosevelt), Laura Linney (Daisy), Samuel West (King George VI), Olivia Colman (Elizabeth), Elizabeth Marvel (Missy), and Olivia Williams (Eleanor Roosevelt) (2012): It’s 1939, and the newly crowned King George VI and wife Queen Elizabeth (aka The Queen Mum) visit President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at his New York State family estate in hopes of securing some promise of American aid to Great Britain in the event of the inevitable war with the Axis.

While this meeting is the centre of Hyde Park on the Hudson, it’s told within the story of Daisy, a distant cousin of FDR who became his confidante and lover around that time, a fact ultimately disclosed decades later when her diaries and letters were discovered after her death.

Laura Linney is terrific as Daisy, who combines pragmatism and naivete as she and FDR carry on their odd little romance. Bill Murray remains fully under control as a convincing FDR, though the accent isn’t quite there. The rest of the cast is also solid. The tone of the movie remains fairly light throughout — this is either a comic drama or a dramatic comedy, take your pick.

One of the nice touches is FDR’s eternal battle with his teetotaling mother — who still runs the estate and tries to forbid drinking thereon. FDR hides booze in his desk, but the question of public drinking finally comes to a head during the early stages of the Royal Visit. Cocktails are soon being served.

Part of the movie deals with the PR manuevering around the King’s visit. George VI was the first British king to visit the United States, and anti-Royal (and anti-British) sentiments still had quite a foothold in the United States. As FDR already knew that the United States would have to come to Great Britain’s aid, the Royal Visit would be a chance to humanize the Royals and publically make Great Britain likeable again. And whatever else FDR was, he was a consummate politician. Hotdogs would also be served. Recommended.

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