If one is going to dramatize a scene from the sex life of a president of the United States in a jolly, Masterpiece-scented movie — a dubious plan from the get-go — one had better bloody well have proof as a license to invade privacy. Letters and diaries discovered in 1991 after the death of 99-year-old Margaret “Daisy” Suckley, a distant cousin of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, make clear that the two sustained an intimate friendship of a romantic nature. But nothing in those letters justifies the handwork that Laura Linney, as Daisy, performs on Bill Murray as FDR in Hyde Park on Hudson — or the sight of FDR’s longtime private secretary, Missy LeHand (Elizabeth Marvel), leaving his boudoir during the same 1939 weekend that King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) paid a visit to FDR’s Hudson River estate.
It’s tastelessness like this, served up as fair-game dish to a Downton Abbey-loving audience, that sours the flavor of this tittery production, directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill) and written by playwright Richard Nelson (Goodnight Children Everywhere). Murray, for his part, is approachable yet dignified as the president. Olivia Williams plays the First Lady with the brusqueness of a harried food co-op manager. Poor Linney does what little she can with a character who is presented both as a spinstery naïf and the belle of FDR’s ball. C-