“Hyde Park on Hudson” exists in that nether realm floating somewhere between history, biography and legend. Its central characters are none other than Franklin D. Roosevelt, the King and Queen of England, and FDR’s contingent of relatives and retainers. But the film is not so much about the real people as our modern conception of them.
It’s now well known that Roosevelt, despite being trapped in a body crippled by polio, was a serial philanderer. Bill Murray, hardly anybody’s first thought for the actor who should embody FDR, nonetheless creates a distinct and compelling character that, if he is not reflective of the actual president, at least makes us want the real person to resemble his portrait.
The movie’s central problem is that it’s not really about FDR or the monarchs, but about Daisy, Roosevelt’s sixth cousin played by Laura Linney, who acts as the audience’s eyes and ears. A desperately lonely spinster, Daisy is thrilled by an unexpected invitation to join Roosevelt at the familial estate, where she and the president form a queer relationship that navigates somewhere beyond friendship but does not quite make landfall with romance.
The film is enjoyable in its parts, even if they don’t quite fit together satisfactorily.