Inevitably, most successful TV shows over in Britain get remade for American television, prompting some of the lesser channels to start showing their ‘USA’ counterparts at unsociable hours. Well, this feels a bit like that. You loved The King’s Speech (and so did most of America for what it’s worth), so let’s try and replicate it and set in the USA! The delightful, stuttering King Bertie is back (this time played by Samuel West) and although it seems rather quick to be revisiting some of the same edge-of-war issues, this time he joins Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) over in the States to try and convince our American cousins to overt from the path of isolationism by showing off their more human side. Except…this rather huge, crucial storyline is clumsily sidetracked by a romance side-story leaving behind a most peculiarly confused film.
It feels like the film might have had an original focus on the relationship between FDR and the King, both of whom were suffering physical struggles during this crucial time in history but then it was realised that this would have simply been too similar to The King’s Speech so it searched for its own spin by also looking at FDR’s infidelity. Or perhaps the infidelity was always meant to be the film’s focus but the success of The King’s Speech made them think audiences would want those characters explored further. What we’re left with is a film which immediately cites FDR’s infidelity with Daisy Suckley (Laura Linney) as its emotional core, but then we spend most of our time in the company of the President and the British royals focusing on the minor politics of the visits, before again at the end of the movie reminding us that the film is really about FDR’s relationship with Daisy. Not only does this make little narrative sense but important issues such as his relationship with his wife, Eleanor, and her understanding of his infidelity are not successfully explored but we also never really understand the diplomatic importance of the King’s visit. By the end the politics has completely gone by the wayside which leaves behind a particularly jarring and unsatisfying conclusion.
Its faults feel so apparent – it seems very likely that this was a rushed redraft. However, there’s still so much I liked about this movie, mainly the roles of Samuel West and the ever-wonderful Olivia Colman as the Queen, both of whom play their roles with as much conviction as Firth and Bonham-Carter in The King’s Speech, even if the latter had far superior material to work with. I loved everything about their presence, it felt charming and suitably amusing. I just wished they were a part of a far more cohesive movie. All the light-hearted moments are lovely including a great running conversation between the King and Queen who fret over the significance of being offered ‘hot dogs’ at the picnic.
Sadly, the film doesn’t succeed as a coherent piece but that’s not to say it’s not a pleasant watch because of how delightful West and Colman manage to be with relatively flimsy material (and indeed Murray for the most part). Sadly, it’s just a real pity its narrative structure is all over the place. Two stars, yes, but that’s not to say I don’t have a real soft spot for it. Now I think I’m starting to sound as confused as the film!
Review by David Rank
Hyde Park On Hudson is released on 1st February in the UK. Certificate 12A (UK). Running time 94 mins.
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