All the President’s Concubines
Hyde Park on Hudson: Bill Murray as FDR channeling Bill Clinton.
December 7, 2012 - 7:00 am
The same monarch who was the subject of The King’s Speech, Bertie/George VI (Samuel West), arrives in the company of Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) for a state visit that threatens to go awry because Elizabeth can’t believe the couple are meant to attend an informal picnic where hot dogs are to be served. As maybe half a dozen scenes focus on the alleged importance of those hot dogs, it seems increasingly obvious that this is one of those movies based on the limited access of a minor observer (Daisy would go on to write about the affair in her diaries) that tries to inflate the importance of the few events witnessed by the storyteller. We can’t very well have a movie that says, “One of the women FDR bedded in the summer of 1939 hung around the house a lot that summer and didn’t see much of importance.” So the picnic is elevated to the status of a world-historical event that will supposedly decide whether or not the U.S. is to join Britain in the war against Germany. If the king and queen consume a frankfurter, then FDR will recognize the Brits as our kindred spirits and agree to sign on for the war.
Really? That’s not my understanding of how the Allies got together. To say the movie distorts history is to understate the case. Since the war did indeed start a few weeks later, and yet the U.S. stayed out of it for more than two years and even then might not have fought beside Britain had not Hitler declared war on us after Pearl Harbor, Hyde Park on Hudson is utter nonsense. Moreover, the film’s attempt to recast Roosevelt, perhaps the most patrician president since Washington himself, as a symbol of earthy, unpretentious American-ness in contrast to the snooty visiting Brits, is equally ridiculous. Murray, who certainly carries the regular-Joe aura about him, is completely wrong for the part of this born aristocrat and in no way looks or sounds like Roosevelt. No doubt liberal critics willing to forgive any error if it aids them in their enduring FDR propaganda mission will seek to enshrine Murray’s performance on Mount Rushmore, but let’s face it, the guy is a meatball and this movie has gotten its facts lost in translation.
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