Bill Murray is playing Franklin Roosevelt!? Shut up. BILL MURRAY!? Shut. Up.
Yes, this was my inner naysayer speaking when I first found out about his latest project, Hyde Park on Hudson. In the 80’s and 90’s he played charmingly hilarious characters like the unforgettable Dr. Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters), Phil (Groundhog Day) and Bob Wiley (What About Bob?). Alas, the twentieth century came to a close and Murray’s relationships with indie directors opened and he’s been wonderful thus far. You all know this.
As his affiliation with Sophia Coppola, Jim Jarmusch and especially Wes Anderson culminated, one could argue his inner thespian emerged. Oh, wait. He does the voice of Garfield doesn't he. Rumor has it he was paid in lasagna! Hey-o! Ok, all my jokes can’t be winners. Womp womp. Anywho, from the super silly to the super serious, I, as well as the World loves Bill Murray.
No doubt playing the incomparable FDR raised a few eyebrows, though. I was a tad skeptical. That’s-Daniel-Day-Lewis-type-work. Ok, because I’ve loved Murray since the days of sipping on Ecto Cooler, I decided to brace the elements and scoot my ass over to the Landmark Theater to go see Hyde Park on Hudson this past Saturday.
I was actually super nervous when I heard the mixed reviews. I didn’t want to see my hero fail! The theater was surprisingly packed so I guess I wasn't the only other curious one. I ended up having to squeeze into a seat next to this “woman” who was slam dunking fists of popcorn in her mouth and slurping her Coke like a four year old. Sloppy bitch aside, I was immersed in the striking cinematography and the salient acting of, not only Murray, but the ENTIRE cast. A special shout out to Olivia Williams who played Eleanor Roosevelt. She was wonderful!
Hyde Park on Hudson takes place on the eve of the U.S. involvement in WWII, when one of our nation’s most respected and loved presidents, FDR ,was “in” the White House. I use quotations because he preferred to be at his family estate (instead of the Oval Office) located on the majestic New York landscape that is Hyde Park most of the time.
There are two main stories happening in the film. The first is his growing relationship with his sixth cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) and the second is the preparation of the King George VI, aka Bertie (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth’s (Olivia Colman) visit to America. No English monarch had ever been to the states, so it was kind of a big deal. Within both of these plots the reoccurring theme of humility is made apparent. From FDR’s polio and the imperative need of stress relief (provided by Daisy), to Bertie’s stutter and his passion to be a great king for his people, the movie as a whole is very touching and relatable.
It sort of reminded me of the American version of The King’s Speech. Well, minus the speech. Murray was just as seamless as Colin Firth. Some of the most powerful scenes came together because of his ability to carry the weight of playing such an iconic character. His comedic timing is still there, which is amazing! I feel like all his work with Wes Anderson was in preparation for this role. It’s a role of a like time and he nailed it! I hope he scoops up the Golden Globe and at least an Oscar nomination.
Is there anything you can’t do, Bill? What a stud.