Hyde Park on Hudson ** (R) Here’s another biopic no one really needed, delivering a mediocre portrayal of a fascinating figure. Anthony Hopkins did no favors to our memories of Alfred Hitchcock in his vehicle; nor does Bill Murray add anything of value to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s legacy with this look at the events surrounding his 1939 visit from England’s king and queen as a prelude to our then-controversial potential involvement in WWII. We learn about their weekend meeting from the perspective of a cousin (Laura Linney), whose involvement with the Prez was closer than our traditional view of familial engagement. Despite the historic significance of the first appearance by any English monarch in this former colony, and the desperation that compelled it, the script subjugates the macrocosm to the relatively tepid tale of this observer, mostly crafted from her posthumously-discovered diaries.
The script offers bits of levity and some tabloid glimpses into both families. While nothing occurs that would satisfy Jerry Springer’s audiences, enough is suggested about everyone’s private lives to titillate viewers. Seeing great public figures with deep private flaws does raise one valid question about our current media climate. Do we really need to know the sexual, medical or other intimate details about our leaders? FDR worked wonders for us through the Depression and WWII, while few knew he governed from a wheelchair. And if affairs of the heart help governmental and military officials deal effectively with affairs of state, maybe the public’s right to know should be limited to how they manage our business, rather than their own. (12/14/12)