Kind friends at Amazon sent me the DVD of a newish British film which originally had a load of promise. Last year we first heard about the idea of a private visit to America made by King George VI and the Queen, after an invitation had come from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The British Prime Minister had agreed with the king that all-out war was approaching and that the United States must enter it against Hitler or the Europe would be lost to fascism.
That was the idea anyway. The film would be called Hyde Park (how very British) on the Hudson (New York, New York) because the royals would actually be staying at a mansion overlooking the great river belonging to the mother of the President, not at the White House, on account of the secrecy of the visit. The name of the house was Hyde Park. Joke over.
But the joke is not over because the film is an upside-down, mishmashy, topsy-turvy load of tripe which cannot make up its mind if it is the story of one of Roosevelt’s mistresses and her up-and-down relationship with the President – legless with polio; or the story of the King’s attempts to talk Roosevelt into joining Britain and France in the nearing conflict with Germany/Italy/Russia etc. Is it one or the other? The script writers do not seem able to make up their mind. Still, the countryside and the old cars and Hyde Park itself are beautiful.
The casting is very strange indeed. Director Roger Michell chose comedian Bill Murray to play FDR. He should have chosen Jon Voigt but didn’t. Murray is completely out of place. But even more out of place is Olivia Colman, who gets to be Queen Elizabeth – the future Queen Mother. First, she does not look remotely like Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon at any age, whereas Helena Bonham-Carter in the movie The King’s Speech did, and was perfect casting. Colman plays the Queen as a snotty middle-class bitch. Second, the king is not played by Colin Firth (who won an Oscar for his performance) but by Samuel West who always acts well (as indeed he should, being the son of Timothy and Prunella) but cannot achieve the right amount of stammer or stamina for George VI.
What a pity all round! The idea in the original treatment was so good, but the film makes a mockery of it. It is the movie disappointment of 2013.