The king and I – Hyde Park on Hudson review

Hyde Park on Hudson

By Jess Lomas
March 26, 2013

When a hot dog becomes a repeated point of conversation in a film, it might be an indication that all is not well. Such is the case in Hyde Park on Hudson, the somewhat historical drama directed by Roger Michell. Narrated by Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (Laura Linney), the distant cousin of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray), the movie focuses both on their illicit affair and on the first visit of a reigning British monarch to America, as King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) attempt to get FDR on their side leading up to what would become the Second World War.

Written by Richard Nelson, it’s loosely based on Daisy’s diaries and letters which came to light after her death, but much controversy remains as to the degree of truth with which their relationship is depicted. That Hyde Park on Hudson is classified as a comedy-drama is a further curiosity, as the picture is devoid of any humour save for a handful of awkward laughs courtesy of the visiting royal couple.

Hyde Park on Hudson

Given Michell’s background – particularly Notting Hill – it’s a surprise he hasn’t injected more of that winning formula here and has instead, in an attempt to give us a straight period drama, delivered a dull interpretation of a wildly exciting time in history. What the feature does illustrate beautifully is the period, and there’s much detail to admire here, from the costume design by Dinah Collin, who expertly handles period particulars, to the set decoration by Celia Bobak.

The performances are also well delivered, with West and Colman standouts as the Royal couple doing their best shocked and appalled faces at the lax American attitudes around them (that said, West does by no means compete with Colin Firth’s “Bertie” from The King’s Speech). Murray handles portraying such a large historical figure fine, given his comedic background, yet his turn, and the film as a whole one must admit, feels somewhat flat, lacking energy and passion. Even Linney’s narration, which begins by eliciting intrigue, slowly becomes stale. Considering its potential, Hyde Park on Hudson fails to meet expectations, plods along at an at times excruciating pace, and cannot be considered worthwhile viewing based on the handful of entertaining performances.


Hyde Park on Hudson arrives in Australian cinemas March 28, 2013.

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