Our First Glimpse of Bill Murray in Action as FDR

Slate's Culture Blog
May 18 2012 5:41 PM

Trailer Critic: Bill Murray as FDR in Hyde Park on Hudson

murrayfdr1
Bill Murray as FDR in the new trailer for Hyde Park on Hudson

Hyde Park on Hudson became an intriguing movie the moment Bill Murray was cast as Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Sure, other excellent actors appear in the film, also playing interesting parts: Olivia Williams joins her Rushmore castmate as Eleanor Roosevelt, Laura Linney is Roosevelt confidante Margaret Suckley, the soon-to-be better appreciated (I hope) Olivia Colman is Queen Elizabeth II. (Samuel West, who plays the famously stuttering King George VI, is new to me.) But it's not a great surprise to see any of those talented actors in such roles. Murray as FDR, on the other hand, teases one with possible revelations—about Murray as an actor, of course, and maybe even about FDR as a figure in the popular imagination.

After watching this trailer, however, I am dialing down those expectations a notch. Murray looks fine here, if not revelatory. But he's drowned out by the surrounding cacophony. The movie focuses on the first visit of a reigning English monarch to the United States: War with Germany was on the horizon, and so the King and Queen visited Roosevelt for a weekend at his upstate New York home to lobby for American support. The movie appears to tackle the "special relationship" of the U.S. and the U.K.; the role of a president as compared to the role of a king; the rise of the modern media and its changing relationship to power; and, you know, World War II.

Advertisement

One movie that comes to mind while watching this trailer is My Week with Marilyn, which similarly depicts a brief period that a relative unknown (in this case, Linney's Margaret Suckley) spent with an icon (and also considers the two nations divided by a common language). But giving us the main story at one remove risks clouding the picture. And, in the case of Hyde Park on Hudson, this risk is compounded with another: crowding the frame with too many larger-than-life figures (FDR, Eleanor, Elizabeth, George VI). Just as Friends With Kids presented a rom-com corrollary to the "too many superheroes" problem, Hyde Park on Hudson suggests a biopic variation of that dilemma.

I'm still curious to see what Murray does with the role, and I hope the movie brings more attention to Colman. But I won't expect any grand reimagination of Roosevelt—just the latest interesting turn from the best of the excellent Murray brothers.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.