“Hyde Park on Hudson”: The only thing we have to fear is an uninspired biopic

Hyde-Park-on-Hudson

Boy, what happened to this movie? When I first started seeing the trailer for “Hyde Park on Hudson,” I thought for sure it looked like a big Oscar contender. Historical drama, a little overlap with “The King’s Speech,” and one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors, Bill Murray, stretching himself in what looked like a convincing fashion playing FDR. At the very least, I thought, we’d have two ex-Presidents duking it out for the Best Actor Oscar.

Instead, “Hyde Park” didn’t get any Oscar nominations, little love from critics and audiences, and now finally limps into Madison in February for less than a week (Sundance Cinemas is pulling it Thursday to make room for “A Good Day to Die Hard” — the indignity!). What happened?

Unfortunately, the movie happened. Although Murray is good as FDR, the movie around him is a mess, never sure whether it’s a historical drama or a comedy, and way too tentative about its subject matter, watching events from a careful, dull distance. The two subjects — FDR’s invite of the King and Queen to American to discuss America’s possible intervention in World War II, and FDR’s many affairs, including with a distant cousin (Laura Linney) — never fit together at all. In the end, “Hyde Park” reminded me a lot of “The Iron Lady” or “My Week With Marilyn,” in which a great act of historical impersonation is surrounded by a middling movie that doesn’t live up to it.

My review for the Capital Times is here.

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