Story by Rotten Tomatoes: In June 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) host the King and Queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) for a weekend at the Roosevelt home at Hyde Park on Hudson, in upstate New York – the first-ever visit of a reigning English monarch to America. With Britain facing imminent war with Germany, the Royals are desperately looking to FDR for support. But international affairs must be juggled with the complexities of FDR’s domestic establishment, as wife, mother, and mistresses all conspire to make the royal weekend an unforgettable one.
Essentially, it is the story of the love affair between FDR and his distant cousin – 5th or 6th – Margaret Stuckley played by Laura Linney over a weekend at the president’s country estate with the visiting King and Queen of England in 1939. This is her story and her voice, which makes the film unique. It is not a chick-flick. It is a true story, based on her journals but what makes the story compelling is her relations with a well-known American president. Even though we get a glimpse of an era and time-period this affair is hardly different than any other.
The character Margaret or ”Daisy” is less than dynamic or intriguing. Linney is usually fabulous but this character was flat and boring. A shame really, because it is very rare to access a woman’s story in film. The mistake most critics make is wanting this to be FDR’s story.
The Chicago Tribune says, Linney’s performance is essentially voice-over work: Narrator Daisy talks a lot about her role in the events, both as insider and outsider. But the role itself never comes to life as a living, breathing, active participant, despite Linney’s skill. Spot on comment.
Picture from The New Yorker
Bill Murray was fabulous in the film Lost in Translation and it is important to realize that while he is exceedingly funny, he is also a serious actor. He is absolutely excellent here.
Critic Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune says, Casting Murray as FDR may feel like a gamble or a stunt at first, but after a few minutes the rightness of the choice is inarguable.Casting Murray is not a gamble or stunt – it is a wake-up call.
Bill Murray is nominated for a Golden Globe: BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL. Um, comedy…musical? Wrong category. If he was up against Daniel Day-Lewis in the drama category he would lose – so there’s that. Unfortunately, I believe that the category continues to pigeonhole him.
Generally, the film was mediocre. It was watchable, for sure, but kind of wishy-washy. It did not seem to know what it wanted to be. The focus on the love affair needed to be more intense. If the goal was to discover FDR then the script should have been different. The production was beautiful, the décor great, there was a distinct era quality.
Murray says, “I did a lot of reading and studied the accent of the area. I worked with a specialist in sound and tried to behave as well as I could. I was working with English people … I tried to keep it together, but I still have a lot of revolutionary rage, and I tried to put a damper on that.”
Having seen The King’s Speech really put the King’s stammer into perspective. An interesting dynamic was set up between the President who had suffered from Polio and was now confined to a wheelchair and the King who had a speech impediment – they were not simply bodies. Actually, the best scenes in the film were when they were together.
The direction by Roger Michell (Notting Hill1999) was just okay. He was obviously enamoured with Murray but the lack of focus in the production seeped into his work.
I would say that this is a pleasant film to watch. There is nothing remarkable here but watching Bill Murray is a fine thing and I will be very glad if this performance unglues him from a strictly ‘comedian’ category.