Friday Flicks: It’s Bill Murray’s Turn to Play President in ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’

TIME breaks down which films to see and which to avoid this weekend.

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Hyde Park on Hudson

Bill Murray’s best chances to win an Oscar are arguably behind him. Because if he couldn’t snag one for his portrayal of weatherman Phil Connors, doomed to relive the same day in Groundhog Day, due to the Academy’s aversion to comedy, or as Bob Harris, the actor suffering from a midlife crisis in Lost in Translation, due to the Academy’s love for Sean Penn (who won for Mystic River that year), it’s hard to see how he’ll ever get to read out an acceptance speech, unless he’s collecting the statue on behalf of one of his peers.

And yet some are saying that he might be a contender as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson. Poor Bill: If only he didn’t have to go up against another POTUS, in the form of Daniel Day Lewis’s Abraham Lincoln in the same awards season. ‘Twas ever thus.

If anything, we shouldn’t be looking to this year’s contenders but rather a film from two years ago, as we’re almost in The King’s Speech territory. The year is 1939 and George VI (Samuel West rather than Colin Firth this time) and his wife are in America to ask FDR for some help ahead of the inevitable outbreak of war with Germany. The Royals are in his mother’s upstate New York pad, whereas Roosevelt is in the city with, among others, Olivia Williams, who plays his First Lady Eleanor. Crucially, among those “others,” is his distant cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (Laura Linney) as their affair shows how FDR is trying to combine the demands of the Presidency with all his – ahem – “special relationships.”

The critics don’t seem to be buying it on either side of the pond. The Guardian, who likes the movie as much as anyone, still maintains a rather cynical tone. “This is a quite audaciously pragmatic product, which exists because someone has calculated that if you multiply The King’s Speech to the power of Roosevelt and then add Bill Murray, the tills that rang out (to the tune of $250m) for Tom Hooper’s film are going to be Liberty bell loud this time around.” Variety takes a similar tack but goes for the jugular: “This frequently tacky tell-all amplifies one aspect of The King’s Speech‘s appeal … by revealing celebrated world leaders to be as insecure and flawed as the rest of us. But Roger Michell’s treatment shares none of King’s Speech‘s overcoming-adversity triumph, spelling far milder returns.” As for the King of TIME reviewers, the majestic Richard Corliss, isn’t remotely moved: “Roger Michell’s movie is, pretty consistently, dreadful.”

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