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Film review: Hyde Park on Hudson, Bill Murray and Laura Linney


In years to come there will be perhaps one single scene you will recall from this inert and inconsequential movie.

Daisy (Laura Linney), a distant spinster cousin of Franklin D Roosevelt (Bill Murray), has been playing companion to the President during his vacations at Hyde Park in upstate New York.

On a motor outing one afternoon the two of them stop in a quiet meadow of wildflowers where he encourages the lady to give him a handjob, filmed mercifully from a distance, the car bouncing on its springs. It's a prurient moment in Roger Michell's otherwise prim drama – like cartoon genitalia scrawled on a doily – and you can't understand why it's there, other than to underline FDR's mild goatishness. (Daisy wasn't his only bit on the side.)

Richard Nelson's screenplay aims for an Anglo-American comedy of manners as George VI (Samuel West) and his wife, Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), visit Hyde Park one weekend in June 1939, with the king hoping to secure American support in the coming war. But the comedy turns out to consist of a running gag about the Queen's dread of "hot dogs". Oh, my sides!

After the deification of Lincoln, this portrait of a president goes in the opposite direction, reducing a significant politician to a frail buffer who delights in cocktails, his stamp collection and Daisy's eager company. The production looks very spiffy, and Bill Murray twinkles against type while suggesting nothing remotely presidential.

As a historical footnote it may contain truth – the script is based on Daisy's diaries, found after her death in 1991 – but that doesn't mean it has anything to say.