In order to call Hyde Park on Hudson one of the year’s worst movies, one must first stipulate that it is, in fact, a movie — a contentious proposition at best. Given that the film centers on the (historically dubious) proposition of a sexual relationship between Franklin Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his distant cousin Daisy Suckley (Laura Linney), that it is awful is no surprise. But its slapdash, half-assed assembly is a genuine shock, especially given that director Roger Michell (The Mother, Notting Hill) is an old hand.
Stuck together with globs of redundant voiceover and slathered in Jeremy Sams’ gooey score, the film trawls sordid waters while fronting as a lighthearted romp, a disjuncture that reaches its absurd high point when the couple park the president’s convertible in a flowery field, the strings kick into overdrive, and Daisy wanks off the president of the United States. Although Olivia Williams graces a fine few scenes as Eleanor Roosevelt, whose rumored lesbianism is noncommitally referenced, Daisy is given the key role in soothing tensions with the visiting king and queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman), whose amity is crucial with Nazi Germany on the march. (Alternate title: The Handjob That Saved World War II?)
It comes down to a staged barbecue in which Daisy helps guide an American hot dog into the British monarch’s mouth, an ironically apt finish for a movie so obsessed with the presidential wiener. Hyde Park ends with a nostalgic nod to the days when public figures’ private lives were kept that way — an astonishing hypocrisy given that the film is devoted to exposing just that.