Directed by Roger Michell
Maybe it should be expected that Roger Michell, the director of “Notting Hill” and “Morning Glory,” would do something lighter and fluffier about the 32nd President that only touches upon the politics of the times. This shows a different side of the great and noble leader as seen through the eyes of Laura Linney’s Daisy, a shy and simple woman from Rhinebeck who is called up to Hyde Park to see her fifth cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, who just happens to be the President. After showing her his stamps, they become regular companions whenever he returns to his mother’s upstate home to relax. The relationship begins to get awkward when the President drives Daisy into a field of flowers and she proceeds to pleasure him, a “what the f*ck” moment that’s made worse with her voiceover remark about how they had become “very good friends.”
In fact, much of the movie is narrated by Linney’s character in a laconic manner that threatens to put the viewer to sleep. The relationship between Daisy and FDR is not a particularly interesting story even though it’s another fine showcase for Bill Murray’s talents as he brings a wry likable quality to his FDR. And yet, for a movie that’s supposed to be about them, it’s shocking how easily the King and Queen of England steal the show, arriving at Hyde Park on the Hudson to spend a weekend petitioning FDR to help them in the European war effort. This is when the movie offers its best moments in the interaction between Samuel West and Olivia Colman as King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth. Despite having to follow a tough act like Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, West and Colman are very amusing as the royal couple trying to adjust to American ways.
When Daisy disappears into the woodwork you probably won’t even care, but for a movie that’s supposed to be from her perspective, it spends a lot of time showing private moments in which Daisy wasn’t even present. The schizophrenic nature of the movie where we’re not sure whether it’s Daisy’s story or not is one of the movie’s biggest problems, and one has to assume the success of “The King’s Speech” drove the filmmakers to put more focus on the visit by England’s King and Queen, which culminates in an equally awkward moment during a picnic where Daisy applies mustard to the King’s hot dog, mirroring the equally awkward earlier sexual moment. It’s a truly bizarre way of bringing the two stories together and bringing Daisy back into the picture.
Michell’s a decent director with a solid body of work, but he makes a lot of odd decisions like using natural lighting in key scenes that make them far too dark, which takes away from the performances. The musical noodling that accompanies the movie does little to enhance the emotions or help with its odd tonal shifts.
Eventually, we get back to Daisy as she discovers she’s not the only woman FDR has been sleeping with and they have a falling out, but honestly, this could have easily been a movie just about the relationship between the President and the King of England and it would have been much better movie, even if it would still feel like one we’ve seen before.