In 'Hyde Park On Hudson' Murray Captures FDR

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Bill Murray plays Franklin D. Roosevelt in the new movie Hyde Park on Hudson. Critic Kenneth Turan says Murray's work beautifully conveys the notion of the chief executive as seductive star performer who counts on his charm to get his way.


Visiting the moon, of course, was the ambitious goal of the late John F. Kennedy. And we'll turn, now, to an earlier 20th century president - Franklin D. Roosevelt. He led the U.S. through the Depression and the Second World War, giving the country hope in his radio addresses, the famous Fireside Chats. Now, parts of FDR's life are the focus of a new movie, "Hyde Park on Hudson." Here's film critic Kenneth Turan.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Ronald Reagan liked to half-seriously say he didn't think anybody could be an effective president, if he hadn't been an actor first. Bill Murray plays Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his work beautifully conveys the notion of the chief executive as seductive star performer who counts on his charm to get his way. Murray's Roosevelt dominates every room he's in, with his chipper personality and cat-who's-eaten-the-canary grin. Talking in private to George VI, nicely played by Simon West, Roosevelt works his magic on England's new king.


BILL MURRAY: (as Franklin Roosevelt) You're going to be a very fine king.

SIMON WEST: (as George VI) I don't know what to say.

MURRAY: Your father would be very proud.

WEST: I'm not so certain about that.

MURRAY: If I were your father, I'd be proud.

TURAN: "Hyde Park on Hudson" blends two different stories linked by Roosevelt's magnetic personality; and his vacation White House, in upstate New York. The first story involves FDR's romantic relationship with his distant cousin Daisy, played by Laura Linney. The second, more entertaining story focuses on a crucial state visit paid to Hyde Park in June of 1939, by England's king and queen.


LAURA LINNEY: (as Daisy) He's definitely younger than I'd imagined - for a king, you know?

MURRAY: (as Franklin Roosevelt) Is he?

TURAN: FDR and Daisy share first impressions.


LINNEY: (as Daisy) They both seem nervous. That surprised me.

MURRAY: (as Franklin Roosevelt) Without some help from us, Daisy, there soon might not be an England to be king of. So I'd be nervous, too.

TURAN: The director here is Roger Michell. And though his name is not necessarily on everyone's lips, he's made some of the most entertaining British films of the past 20 years, including "Notting Hill" and "Persuasion." Michell makes literate films, small-scale chamber pieces with a sly sense of humor, that invariably feature fine performances by accomplished actors. Bill Murray's portrayal of the allure of power, goes to the top of the list.

GREENE: Film critic Kenneth Turan. You hear him here, on MORNING EDITION. He also reviews movies for the Los Angeles Times.

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