by Chrysa Smith

If you’re lucky enough to live in a town with theaters that play ‘arts’ movies, you may have heard or seen Hyde Park on  Hudson.  In my opinion, a movie well done.

In it, Bill Murray plays FDR, president on the verge of WWII. Laura Linney plays his fifth cousin and implied lover, who calms and keeps the paralyzed president at ease in his hectic and harried world. And it all happens up in Dutchess County, NY–on the Hyde Park estate of the president’s family.

As the relationship between FDR and Daisy (Linney) develops, she comes to find that she is not alone in her role. The press secretary is also entertaining the president, as may well be, other women.

Daisy initially can’t come to terms with her role as one of many. After all, she was pursued, persuaded, charmed into a role that she thought to be special and unique. But, perhaps a life of quiet desperation, or the fact that ‘he’ is the president, or the fact that she lives in a solitary, somewhat isolated environment convinces her to stay her course and become one of FDR’s lovers.

During the period, the King and Queen of England arrive in the states, hoping to come to amiable terms with the United States, on the cusp of a European war. At first skeptical of the welcome wagon, the royal family eventually comes around, after intimate chats and drinks between the two world leaders softens a somewhat tense relationship–not to mention the picnic with weiners and an Indian dancer.

FDR’s somewhat light and playful personality shines through, as does the slower, lovelier pace of a world some 70 years ago. The royal couple is shone in a softer, intimate and funnier light than we usually see and the markings of a ‘mama’s boy’ is portrayed by the dominant role of Mrs. Roosevelt in her son’s life.

Eleanor is a power to be reckoned with. She is already living in separate quarters, coming to the main house for special events and daytime routines. She is strong. She is outspoken. She is homely. And she knows all too well the wandering eye of her estranged husband.

It was noted that while everyone may have gathered that Daisy was one of FDR’s follies,  it wasn’t reported in the press at that time. The secret was revealed once Daisy passed away at 100 years of age, leaving behind a box of letters which revealed her story.

This creates some controversy with FDR historians, who note that while Franklin may have had some close relationships, his paralysis left him unable to engage in sexual relations. At any rate, Franklin and Eleanor had a relationship that seems strikingly like that of the modern era Clinton’s.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, knowing some of the background behind the story. And I’d highly recommend a trip to Hyde Park, NY. Not only do you get to see FDR and Eleanor’s homes and museum, but you get to see some beautiful Dutchess County, NY scenery. And to top it off, the Culinary Institute of America is also located in the town, making a menu of history, wining and dining a fine recipe for a long weekend.

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And check out the movie’s trailer, below.