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USA meets UK back in the day

OUT NOW! HYDE PARK ON HUDSON is a nice idea but there's not enough there for a great film.

Hopping sedately onto the bandwagon of a renewed obsession with Britain’s more atavistic institutions, “Hyde Park on Hudson” is a pale little comedy of manners chronicling the weekend spent in the summer of 1939 by George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) at the upstate ‘country home’ of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray).

War is imminent and George VI is even prepared to eat a hotdog al fresco if it helps get the US on board. Great alliances may be driven by Realpolitik, but they often germinate on the flimsiest of personal sympathies. Understanding this, director Roger Michell attempts to create a spider’s web of allegiances and Samuel West in particular does a good job of mixing deferential respect with stammered decency in order to stir FDR’s elder-statesman/father sensitivities. His wife suffers more at the hands of the republican ‘May I call you Elizabeth?’ Eleanor.

But like the relationships, these are scanty pretexts for a feature film. The necessity of a parallel narrative admits as much, showing FDR romantically involved with several women, one of whom is Daisy (Laura Linney) his naïve, devoted, mouse-like cousin. Bringing these storylines together makes for a belated narrative conclusion, but it’s not enough to save the movie from long periods of vacillation.

Hyde Park on Hudson | Directed Roger Michell, (UK 2012) with Samuel West, Laura Linney, Olivia Colman, Bill Murray. Starts February 28