In case you didn’t know, FDR was a playa! It’s not too long into Roger Michell’s amiably featherweight period drama before our 32nd President (Bill Murray) gets a metacarpal happy ending from his sixth cousin, and the film’s narrator, Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney). This is a new deal for the gal with the jokes-write-themselves last name: How many women can claim to be on intimate terms with the 1930s commander in chief? Plenty, as it turns out. But such soap opera shenanigans must be shunted aside, for King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) are coming to the Prez’s upstate New York country home for a weekend visit to discuss that Teutonic nuisance, Adolf Hitler.
Though ostensibly about Margaret’s women’s-lib-lite awakening to her famous family member’s harmful passions, the movie is more interested in harvesting comic hay from the real-life meeting of a statesman and a sovereign. King George’s perpetual stutter is a drolly exploited plot point, as in 2010’s awards-sweeping The King’s Speech, as well as the pathos-ridden focus of the film’s best scene, in which FDR boosts the monarch’s confidence with a homespun story over cigars. Meanwhile, Queen Liz’s oh-dear-me facial expressions allow for plenty of humorously punctuating cutaways, and the fate of the free world hilariously rests, in the film’s telling, on the success of a climactic wiener roast. (This is one phallus-obsessed flick.) The whole cast is fine in a prestige-piece sort of way, with Murray expectedly delightful as the head of state, and multifaceted secret weapon Elizabeth Marvel a standout as a smarter-than-she-seems executive assistant. Hyde Park could have been fawningly ponderous; that it’s merely an airy trifle puts it a cut above the usual Oscar bait.
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