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Originally published Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 3:01 PM

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‘Hyde Park’ promising but lackluster

“Hyde Park on Hudson,” directed by Roger Michell and starring Bill Murray and Laura Linney, is a promising but lackluster movie about a visit by the British royals to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home. It’s playing at the Egyptian.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 2.5 stars

“Hyde Park on Hudson,” with Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Elizabeth Marvel, Elizabeth Wilson. Directed by Roger Michell, from a screenplay by Richard Nelson. 95 minutes. Rated R for brief sexuality. Egyptian, Lincoln Square.

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A sort of low-calorie, less-satisfying variation on “The King’s Speech,” Roger Michell’s “Hyde Park on Hudson” takes place over a few days in June in 1939. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (played by Bill Murray) and his wife, Eleanor (Olivia Williams), are preparing to host an unprecedented royal visit in their Hyde Park country home: that of the King and Queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman), who are anxious to shore up American support as their country faces war with Germany — and are willing to endure a hot-dog picnic to obtain it. Watching it all from the sidelines, alert as a quiet cat, is shy Daisy (Laura Linney), FDR’s distant cousin and, according to this movie, occasional lover.

This is a potentially intriguing setup, and by all rights “Hyde Park on Hudson” should be a slyly funny treat. It is, in places — but it’s also strangely flat, as if screenwriter Richard Nelson lost interest somewhere along the way. Not much happens — the hot dogs, held gamely by the royals, are the high point — and we don’t gain much insight into the characters, other than concluding that this FDR is a randy fellow. (In real life, it’s not clear whether he and Daisy were lovers; letters found after her death were inconclusive.)

It’s left to the actors to liven things up, and they mostly do so. Linney, normally so vivid, disappears into the role of dowdy Daisy, who seems too passive to hang a movie on. But you can see how her quietness would intrigue Murray’s kindly, always slightly amused FDR — and annoy Williams’ brittle, perpetually simmering Eleanor. West and Colman won’t make you forget Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, but as royals they have their moments. Colman nails that expression of pained politeness common to royals; West, in a companionable drinking-and-cigars scene with Murray, memorably depicts the young king’s nervousness in his role. You wish there were a little more to “Hyde Park on Hudson,” but what’s there is pleasant enough.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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