A veteran British character player, Eleanor Bron began her career in the 1960s appearing on with The Monty Python Flying Circus and translated her appeal to the screen in several comic romps. She mad...
There is one scene in Hyde Park on Hudson where it's apparent how sharp and layered Billy Murray's portrayal of the 32nd President of the United States Franklin Roosevelt is. The film centers on the historic meeting of King George VI and the president at FDR's titular compound — a culture clash that worried both parties to no end. After their first lengthy meal FDR takes Bertie into his study for another round of drinks. Roosevelt sits him down to talk about his recent appointment as the King of England and the potential for war overseas. Bertie stammers out his concerns aware that his country has lost faith in him. FDR is nothing but comforting while he lifts his polio-stricken legs out of a wheelchair and maneuvers across the room. "If I were your father I'd be proud of you " he says with a grin.
Murray has always been a charmer dating as far back as his first season on Saturday Night Live and that demeanor makes him a perfect fit for America's only four-term President. But Hyde Park on Hudson wastes the opportunity of hiring Murray for the gig which opts not to hone in on the FDR/Bertie relationship in favor of another angle: Roosevelt's habit for mistresses.
Laura Linney plays Margaret Suckley a distant cousin of FDR's in whom the sitting President randomly decides to take a fancy. He calls her up out of the blue and immediately the two start finding romance in each other's company. A car ride out into the middle of a lavender field (and an impassioned sexual act) seals the deal. Margaret is infatuated with Franklin and the POTUS reciprocates.
And that's about it. The film is based on diaries discovered later in history and as far as the events of the movie are concerned their scandalous relationship went fairly uninterrupted. Alluded to in Hyde Park on Hudson Roosevelt's wife Eleanor had an understanding with her husband that allowed her to live on her own (and quite possibly have uncouth relationships herself) and for him to seek comfort with whomever he pleased.
The success of the other recent Bertie story The King's Speech may be cause for the meandering focus of Hyde Park on Hudson never quite confident to dive deep into any of sides of Roosevelt. But the film is at its richest when the spotlight is on King George. Actor Samuel West lives in the shadow of Colin Firth's Oscar-winning performance but he's still the most interesting character in the film struggling to shake off his commanding wife and become his own man. But Hyde Park on Hudson always goes back to the Margaret/Franklin relationship a vapid core idea that only offers the filmmakers an opportunity to shoot dynamic driving scenes through scenic upstate New York.
There is little conflict in Hyde Park on Hudson the greatest hurdle being Bertie's will-he/won't-he-eat-a-hot-dog predicament which sends the Brits into a tizzy. After an hour (and approximately 18 stamp collecting conversations) into the Hyde Park on Hudson it's apparent that the film is content with reenacting the events of the famous King and Queen visit and letting Murray's vibrant performance do the talking. Linney's intriguing mistress role fizzles out — it wasn't a big deal for FDR back 1939 and it hasn't gained any weight 70 years later.
Gillian Anderson is Lily Bart a woman of shaky means for who parties are business and the pursuit of marriage has become a constant vocation. She falls in love with Lawrence Seldon (Eric Stoltz) but quickly realizes she can't seriously consider him since he actually works for a living. Still her efforts to marry for money instead of love are so half-hearted that she sabotages her chances with a wealthy prig and continues her flirting gambling cigarette-smoking ways. This in turn puts her out of favor with her rich aunt and a tragic demise waits in the wings. Bribery extortion and character assassination rear their scandalous heads as the wrong men make improper plays for the desirable Lily. Intriguing as it may sound revealing letters that have been tossed into a fire are all that smolders in this film.
Leaving the realm of supernatural phenomenon ("X-Files") for the spookier world of Victorian society Gillian Anderson plays the ever so wronged but resolutely brave Lily. Anderson's self-righteousness and wretched desperation fail to endear her leaving her tragic long-suffering Lily somewhat remote. But it's Stoltz's opaque inert Lawrence who truly irritates. A once-likeable actor he has begun to play all his roles with a tad too much smugness. Sincere but utterly passive the character is annoyingly subdued. Laura Linney is refreshingly vital as the dangerous Bertha. Dan Aykroyd fails to impress as a villain in sheep's clothes and Eleanor Bron is a caricature of a stern sour aunt.
After seeing one too many Merchant Ivory films one might tire of the convention in which a woman of meager means falls for a poor working man while searching for a rich husband. And for those who haven't seen any you just might tire of it midway through Terence Davies' languid dour drama. Davies ("The Neon Bible " "Distant Voices Still Lives") doesn't do for Wharton what Martin Scorsese did in "Age of Innocence " namely bring her words to lively engaging life.
This film is based on Elegy for Iris literary critic John Bayley's biography of his late wife the brilliant writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch. Iris is unconventional in the sense that it does not adhere to a structured plot or story line but instead focuses on their relationship by flashing back and forth between the present and 40 years ago when the two first met. In the sequences taking place in the past Kate Winslet plays a young confident Murdoch in her formative years a woman revered by men and openly bisexual. Hugh Bonneville plays the young and apprehensive Bayley hopelessly pursuing her. The present however reveals a drastic role reversal for the couple: We see Murdoch in her 70s as played by Judi Dench and witness her descent into Alzheimer's disease and the toll it takes on her husband played by Jim Broadbent. The once-subservient husband has been thrust into a caretaker position and painfully tries to cope with his beloved wife's illness and loss of sanity.
Dench deservedly received a best actress Oscar nomination for the fabulous job she does as the older Murdoch. She is convincing as a brilliant thinker and even more believable as her condition worsens--check out the heartbreaking scene when Bayley locks himself in the study to get away from her irrational behavior and she scratches the windowpane on the glass door like a cat while looking at her husband with utter helplessness. Dench conveys her character's vulnerability in a single glance. As an older Bayley Broadbent is as impressive as Dench especially as he struggles to be assertive yet avoid being too harsh. Bonneville as a young Bayley could almost be Broadbent's clone. At first glance he looks like the same actor made to look older through some sort of makeup or special effects wizardry. Bonneville skillfully hatches the young Bayley's traits and tics later perfected by Broadbent. Winslet also Oscar-nominated for Iris (in the supporting actress category) well plays Murdoch's early audacity and boldness.
Director Richard Eyre does a beautiful and seamless job flowing from the past to the present throughout the film. Although the film barely delves into Murdoch's work the importance of her writing is established with scenes from a BBC interview or a luncheon given in her honor. Eyre also does an exceptional job conveying Bayley's hopeless predicament: he fusses over Murdoch like an overprotective parent intermittently lashing out at her only to apologize sobbing afterward for having done so. It's sweet and pitiful especially since Bayley believes that the Iris he fell in love with is still in there somewhere. But while the film is visually exquisite and convincing the subject matter is not necessarily entertaining. We know Murdoch will eventually succumb to her illness but it's even more dreadful to have to watch every agonizing step. By the time Murdoch was reduced to playing in the dirt and watching Teletubbies I found myself wondering When is she going to die already?
Co-starred in "Two for the Road", directed by Stanley Donen
Had small part as the aviator's mother in "Saint-Ex", a biopic of "The Little Prince" author Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Was featured in the all-star cast of "Little Dorrit"
Made film debut in "Help!"
Had recurring role as Patsy's mum on the British sitcom "Absolutely Fabulous"
Had featured role in "Women in Love", starring Alan Bates and Glenda Jackson
Co-starred in "The Blue Boy" (aired on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre" in the USA)
Appeared in the romantic comedy "Wimbledon" starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany
Again supported Glenda Jackson in "Turtle Diary"
Acted in "Monty Python Meets Beyond the Fringe"
Began career as member of Establishment Club
Offered delicious turn as Lady Bareacres in "Vanity Fair" (A&E)
TV series debut in "Where Was Spring?"
Portrayed Edith Frank in "Attic: The Hiding Place of Anne Frank" (CBS)
Cast in the Richard Eyre's drama "Iris" starring Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent and Kate Winslet
Had featured role in "The House of Mirth"
Appeared on stage with Monty Python
Played Miss Minchin in the remake of "A Little Princess"
Reteamed with Donen as the object of Dudley Moore's affection in "Bedazzled"
A veteran British character player, Eleanor Bron began her career in the 1960s appearing on with The Monty Python Flying Circus and translated her appeal to the screen in several comic romps. She made her screen debut alongside the Beatles in "Help!" (1965), playing a cult member trying to get the red ruby ring off Ringo Starr's finger at any costs so that an offering might be made to the god Kalli. Bron could next be seen as the doctor treating Michael Caine's cad "Alfie" (1966) and then had featured roles in two 1967 films directed by Stanley Donen. In "Two for the Road" was the ex-lover of Albert Finney now married to William Daniels while in "Bedazzled" she was the waitress oozing sex who is the object of Dudley Moore's lust.
Sources vary on Ms. Bron's birthyear, which has been reported as 1934 and 1940.