Aneesh Chaganty

Hyde Park on Hudson | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2012 at 2:01 AM

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Hyde Park on Hudson 

(2012, UK, d. Roger Michell)

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. Flying under the radar this awards season – apart from a noteworthy performance by Bill Murray – Hyde Park on Hudson is a rare treat amongst the adult dramas of 2012. Consider most people’s top 10 lists this year (including my own, which will be released on December 31st) and you’ll notice that most of the films contain some sort of technological advancement, big name star, or intense production value, which is what makes Hyde Park so unique. Relying on nothing but its story, Hyde Park actually may be one of the riskier filmic endeavors playing in theaters today. Though it’s no doubt that the film won’t stand any test of time – purely for its lack of novelty – it’s a delight to watch a movie that doesn’t ask the audience for anything more than to pay attention to a story. A simple story told through the eyes of a simple woman, Hyde Park on Hudson is one of the better films of 2012. 

Told through the eyes of Margaret Suckley (an ever-impressive Laura Linney), the fifth (or sixth) cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the film chronicles her relationship with the President – mostly focusing on two days spent at Hyde Park, FDR’s country estate. These two days are special because these are the days in which King George VI (Samuel West) and his Queen (Olivia Colman) are visiting from England to request the aid of the US in the impending second World War.

Hyde Park on Hudson is a story of disillusionment and a sort of sad acceptance for the way things are. No one and nothing is quite as it seems – though don’t expect a gun fight or melodramatic conclusion. The film chronicles the slow and simple affair between FDR and Margaret, culminating in the two days of King George’s visit to America.

My problems with the film arose only when director Roger Michell lost track of his protagonist. Though in strong control of its tone and pacing, Hyde Park often seems uncertain as to whether it is telling the story of Margaret (which it is) or a biography of FDR (which is desperately wants to). So often does the camera peer into the private conversations between FDR and the King that I often questioned what the director was trying to convey. I was only complaining in retrospect though. These private conversations are a highlight of the film, largely due to a strong performance by Murray (I often wondered, though: Was it actually his performance or was it the fact that, for once, Bill Murray wasn’t acting like Bill Murray?). By the end, however, Michell is able to gain sight of the story again. 

I have to compliment the cinematography in the film – which uses its camera, lenses, and lighting to advance its narrative. Reminscent much of 2010’s The King’s Speech in its lighting, Hyde Park on Hudson is a wonderful lesson in using the tools of digital technology to quietly pull on the heart strings of audiences. 

This is one of those films that will undoubtedly be forgotten in a few years. But in the meantime, if you can, please try and give it a watch. It’s worth the time. 

And it features one of the most dramatic uses of a hot dog in recent times. You’ll understand.

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