Martha’s Vineyard Film Society screens “Hyde Park on Hudson”


“Hyde Park on Hudson” is the latest movie about our nation’s past presidents to hit the screens. This time the president is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and “Hyde Park on Hudson” comes to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center over the post-New Year’s weekend.

Some moviegoers may be surprised to learn that old “Saturday Night Live” veteran Bill Murray plays FDR, the venerable Depression-era president who was confined to a wheelchair by polio but still seemed to have a wandering eye for the ladies. But in recent years, the consummate comedian of “Groundhog Day” fame has taken on more serious roles in films like Jim Jarmusch’s “The Limits of Control” and Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation.”

As Steven Speilberg does in “Lincoln,” director Roger Michell juggles a portrait of the man with his role in history in “Hyde Park on Hudson.” This British director is known for “Notting Hill” and “Persuasion.” While the movie was not available for review, the emphasis by all reports shifts to Roosevelt’s relationship with his cousin Daisy Suckley, played by Laura Linney. The evidence is mixed about the physical intimacy between the president and his cousin (the movie suggests it was very close), but letters found after Daisy’s death in 1991 have demonstrated their closeness.

The historical moment in “Hyde Park on Hudson” is 1939, and it spotlights the visit of England’s King George VI (Samuel West) and his wife (Elizabeth Colman), seen recently in 2010 Oscar-winner “The King’s Speech,” to Roosevelt at Hyde Park, the President’s family estate 90 miles north of New York City. While the Civil War is winding down in “Lincoln,” World War II impends in “Hyde Park on Hudson,” and the British royalty are looking for support from an isolationist America.

The occasion was the first visit to the U.S. by British royalty, and Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams) decides to serve the king and queen hot dogs. That scene alone suggests the light touch “Hyde Park on Hudson” uses in matters of state.

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