Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. United Kingdom, 2012. Daybreak Pictures, Film Four, Free Range Films, Media Pro Four, Media Pro One, Media Pro Three, Media Pro Two, Premiere Picture. Screenplay by Richard Nelson. Cinematography by Lol Crawley. Produced by David Aukin, Kevin Loader, Roger Michell. Music by Jeremy Sams. Production Design by Simon Bowles. Costume Design by Dinah Collin. Film Editing by Nicolas Gaster. Golden Globe Awards 2012. Toronto International Film Festival 2012.
Her life diminished by the Depression, Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (Laura Linney) is quick to respond when her distant cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) requests her to come be his companion and lighten his days of endless politics and his dry marriage to wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams, reuniting with her Rushmore co-star). It is not long before these two go from friends to lovers, spending long days driving through the countryside surrounding the estate that Roosevelt lives on with his mother when he is not in Washington (Eleanor has taken up residence elsewhere). Their connection takes a back seat in the plot when the King Of England (Samuel West) comes for a visit with wife Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) in the hopes of drawing America into a war with Germany should there be one; it is the early thirties, the Nazi threat is rumbling and George wants to be prepared. One of the messiest scripts ever given to so sterling a cast veers uncomfortably back and forth between perspectives as it fleshes out the King’s uncomfortable early steps in his monarchy, discovering his true mettle in his father-son-like conversations with FDR, and his relationship with his critical but never shrewish wife (Colman, the film’s richest character, plays the future Queen Mother with great strength and charm). Yet the film is supposed to be about Linney’s relationship with the President: that’s how the story begins and then completely abandons her. She is the narrator despite the fact that she is not present for many key events, and then she is brought in for the conclusion of what feels like a different film. Linney’s realization that she is only one of the many women who comfort the leader of the free world is yet another tangent of a screenplay that should be complex and rich but is actually just an amateurish, vulgar mess, completely undeserving of the actors doing such fine work under such incredibly lazy direction. The events depicted were unearthed not long ago when Suckley passed away in her centenary year and her diaries and letters were discovered.