Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Wacky comedian takes Roosevelt to the king

AMERICAN presidents are obviously de rigeur in the film industry right now, because just a week after Abraham Lincoln’s biopic

AMERICAN presidents are obviously de rigeur in the film industry right now, because just a week after Abraham Lincoln’s biopic hit the big screen it’s now the turn of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But while Lincoln is played by that most serious of British method actors, Daniel Day-Lewis, Roosevelt, the wheelchair-bound hero who guided the free world through World War Two is played by.... Bill Murray.

Hyde Park On Hudson (12A) centres on a pivotal moment in history — when the British monarch and his wife visit the American president with the intention of persuading him to bring America into the war.

This is not only the story of the meeting between two great and powerful men and the political brinkmanship such an exchange would involve, it also examines the human stories behind the scenes. Roosevelt was struck by polio as a child and was disabled all his adult life, and similarly the king, George VI was crippled by the disability of his stutter.

It’s an interesting concept, and Hollywood executives, when faced with the plot outline, were no doubt rubbing their hands in glee.

King George VI and his stutter made lots of lolly for the US film industry last year with The King’s Speech — and rightly so, since the film boasted a spectacular cast, a brilliant script and outstanding performances from Colin Firth as the monarch and Geoffrey Rush as his irreverent but brilliant voice coach. But how does that compare with Bill Murray — the sarcastic, deadpan, screwball comedy actor we remember best for his wacky roles in Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day — playing a character with this much gravitas?

The reviews are mixed. A Sunday Times critic has called his performance “lovely, gentle, considered and lacking in ego” but the review website rottentomatoes has given the film only two stars.

Hyde Park On Hudson is directed by Roger Mitchell, best-known for hits such as Notting Hill and Persuasion. The kingis played by Samuel West who had a part in Howard’s End, and Queen Elizabeth is played by Olivia Colman, who played Carol Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Both are solid, serious, hard-working British actors who will no doubt do a good job.

Films about moments in history always go down well, and no doubt this movie will be beautiful to look at, with plenty of opportunities for the fashion-lovers amongst us to ooh and ahh at all those glamorous, elegant clothes from the Thirties.

The film also unveils some interesting details about Roosevelt’s love life. Despite his disabilities he was quite a lothario.

Murray, apparently, did not want this to be known as a movie about Roosevelt’s mistresses. In this pre-Profumo era, when the president’s affairs would have been his own private business, the gossip and scandal surrounding his love life would have been more down to speculation than hard facts. Nevertheless, he had an unusual arrangement with his wife, Eleanor, who set up a separate household, and a complicated relationship with his cousin. Plenty of material for an actor like Murray to get his teeth into.

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