By Roger Thomas for the SNAP
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 —
There is a word that I seldom use to describe films. I hear others using the term, and I have often objected. Recently, some have used the word to describe “Lincoln.” In the past when “Merchant and Ivory” were garnering Oscar nominations every year, friends of mine would use this word when speaking of films such as “Howard’s End” and “The Remains of the Day.”
I have argued on many occasions that the word should never be used with any reference to the masterpiece “The English Patient.” But there are some who would argue that almost any film with accents should be described by this word. However, for years I have shunned the word. Where others use it, I have often replied, “The film is not that. Your adjective is wrong. The film is paced. It moves at a different pace than the Hollywood blockbusters, and there is nothing wrong with a different pacing.”
In my review of “Hyde Park on the Hudson,” I believe I will deviate from my normal practice and I will embrace the word I often avoid: this film is “SLOW.” I kept waiting for it to become compelling. I was ready for it to move me, inform me, inspire me, intrigue me or amuse me. Instead it meandered along and I found myself thinking, “This film is paced and the pace is even too SLOW for me.”
I like Bill Murray and Laura Linney and I could watch them in almost anything. I hope there is Oscar gold in their future. Linney is very good in “Hyde Park” but I prefer her roles in “The Truman Show,” “The Savages” and “You Can Count on Me.” And I have to say I really saw nothing remarkable about Murray’s take on Roosevelt. There is not one moment that comes close to the brilliance of his speech about his children in “Lost in Translation.” (The writing there was great but Murray also delivered the words with powerful emotion.)
I like a good historical drama. (There are three on my Top Ten List for 2012.) I find the plot of the film, at least as it is delivered in the trailer, to be intriguing. Franklin Roosevelt and his relationship with his distant cousin, the arrival and visit of the first King of England to come to the United States, the relationships between the staff and the president, his wife and his mother; all these are elements of a good story not yet told on film.
I have a friend who liked the movie less than I did. I am obviously not a big fan, but I am glad I saw it. Once again, I am not sure of all the historical inaccuracies that exist in the movie, but many of the things shown or implied offer insight into the FDR on screen, if not the real man and president. I liked the process of discovery that one experiences as the story unfolds. I only wish it would have unfolded quicker and with a little more emotion. But perhaps, that lack of emotion is symbolic of the times and the people who populate the film. Perhaps that is one of the points of the film. Though it did not succeed in drawing in this viewer.
When the filmmakers begin to envision “Hyde Park on the Hudson,” they may have contemplated many things as they considered their presentation of this one short moment in the life of one President of the United States. A lot happened in that weekend when a president and king considered war and the future. And there are a few moments when the film shines. But alas, there are at least as many moments when one wishes the film would speed up, show the audience more, or at least let the banter be quicker, smarter, more quotable.
If you want historical drama, there are better films playing at the multi-plex and one of them is even about a president immersed in his own war of battlegrounds and politics.