Fact: everybody loves Bill Murray. Everybody. If he wasn’t your favorite gregarious Ghostbuster, he won you over as the loveable crank in Rushmore or Lost in Translation.
Fact: Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the president whose historic house in Hyde Park is in the closest proximity to us. That fact alone — sure, sure, in addition to the New Deal and March of Dimes and all that good stuff — should endear him to us.
If both Murray and Roosevelt are great on their own, logic would assume that Bill Murray + FDR = Instant Win. Sadly, as is often the case with two great tastes, the combo didn’t seem to work for Hyde Park on Hudson.
The film opened this weekend — granted, only in four theaters — and the response has been… tepid.
It’s not that the box office was bad. (The movie debuted too low to be ranked in the weekend box-office chart. It brought in $83,000, which seems really bad, but that’s a $20,825 per-screen average, which isn’t.) Since the film was only out in such a limited number of theaters, the box office hasn’t had a chance to really weigh in.
The critics, on the other hand, weren’t too impressed. The movie has a 56/100 score on Metacritic (which translates to “mixed or average reviews”), and a 40% score on the Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” (which counts as “rotten”).
Here’s a sampling of what some critics had to say:
“Bill Murray simply seizes the center ring and holds one’s attention from beginning to end. Wryly wringing crinkle-browed humor from FDR’s deadpan speech and singsong cadence, puffing away on his trademark cigarette holder and dropping ashes wherever he settles, with his upper teeth protruding when he smiles and his eyes twinkling when his robust sexual appetite surfaces, Mr. Murray channels the enormous humanity and popularity of the only U.S. president to be elected three times in a row with quotable one-liners and enchanting grace.” — Rex Reed, The New York Observer
(Okay, that one’s not so bad.)
“Here [Director Roger Michell] opts for a softer, safer approach that’s initially playful and spry, thanks largely to Murray and Linney’s fine performances, but ultimately blunts the story’s sharp edges and lets Murray’s womanizer-in-chief off easy.” — Nathin Rabin, A.V. Club
“Saddled with a role that groans with historical weight, yet is also terribly underwritten and underconceptualized, Mr. Murray’s Franklin rarely comes to palpable life before this encounter. The actor strikes familiar poses, the famous cigarette jauntily thrusting. Yet because the movie often assumes Daisy’s point of view (she also narrates), his character remains vague, remote, more of a place holder among the rest of the period-correct production design.” — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
“Hyde Park on Hudson tries to be simultaneously high- and low-minded, an Upstairs Downstairs drama mixing affairs of state with affairs of the heart and other regions. The attempt fails; director Roger Michell’s movie is, pretty consistently, dreadful.” — Richard Corliss, Time
The good news is that most of the reviews — even if they weren’t so hot on the movie — had pretty nice things to say about Murray. Still, being consistently singled out as the only reason to watch the movie means his Oscar chances just got much slimmer, especially since he’d be going up against another presidential performance with Daniel Day-Lewis’s Lincoln (which has an 86/100 Metascore). Murray was nominated for an Oscar for Lost in Translation, but he’s never won. I’d personally love to see him take a statue home to Rockland County, but I don’t think this is going to be the year.