After seeing the trailer for the Hyde Park on Hudson, directed by Roger Mitchell, I was looking forward to seeing the film, which came out on the 1st February in the UK. I was slightly disappointed, however, as the trailer turned out to be a little misleading. What looked like a quaint comedy about King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visiting the American President, was actually light drama based on the letters and diaries of one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's many mistresses.
The film is set in 1939 and starts with Roosevelt inviting his fifth or sixth cousin, - 'depending on how you count' - Daisy, to distract him from the daily grind of presidential life. Things are awkward at first, for both Daisy and the audience due to Mitchell's use of long silences. The decision to have so many scenes without a musical score in the background was brave, and although it works at adding tension between the characters, it also slows the pace of the film down significantly.
After what seems like an Age, King George and Queen Elizabeth finally arrive. From here things begin to pick up. Unlike with the American characters, I was able to connect with George and Elizabeth straight away. I experienced the same displacement they felt as they entered their strange new surroundings, whether it was from satirical cartoons mocking British soldiers or the idea of hot dogs at a picnic. The humour was born out of the cultural differences and misunderstandings between the English and Americans, not to mention the brilliant performance by Olivia Colman, who got the Queen down to a tee. Despite her excellent portrayal, I can't help but feel the writers were rather unfair to Queen Elizabeth, as they constantly had her comparing George to his brother. This is something the real Queen never would have done; she was always trying to give the King confidence, and in fact did not particularly like his brother, Edward, anyway.
There are essentially two plots to this story: Daisy's relationship to the president, and the King's attempt to get America's support in the War. The division makes the film unfocussed; Daisy's voice-over suggests that it is her story, but it does not always seem that way, as on a number of occasions she disappears from a scene entirely until you've almost forgotten about her. It is an enjoyable enough film, but lacks direction, and I think it can only be truly appreciated by a British or American audience - or at least someone who has knowledge and interest in the two cultures.