Spinster Daisy (Linney) arrives at the Roosevelt estate to provide company for distant cousin Franklin (Murray). An affair ensues, disrupted by the visit of King George VI (West).
Hopelessly miscast as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, and not even attempting his distinctive voice — this is like Ray Winstone playing Winston Churchill — Bill Murray’s disabled President doesn’t seem to be running a country he led out of the Great Depression and into World War II. Rather, he holds court at Hyde Park — his estate, not the stop on the Piccadilly line — with his more-than-a-secretary Missy (Elizabeth Marvel) and his feisty wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams), his penchant for the ladies known to all but unremarked by the media of the day. Into the noisy mixed company of patricians and social reformers creeps innocent, mousy Margaret ‘Daisy’ Suckley (Laura Linney), so naive that once she’s been groomed into giving FDR a handjob on one of their outings, she thinks it’s love.
This is mystifying, since nothing more closely resembling sex, let alone chemistry, ever occurs between them on screen, thank heavens. Nothing much, period, occurs, until, in what was a first American visit by any British monarch, the King and Queen of England descend for a few anxious days in 1939. Samuel West and Olivia Colman bring much-needed zest as Bertie and Elizabeth, he still stammering and she considerably more tetchy than Helena Bonham Carter’s supportive wifey in The King’s Speech.
But there is a vast disconnect between drab Daisy’s visits and that
of the royals. Inspired by Daisy’s diaries and letters, Richard Nelson’s screenplay uses abundant voiceover from Linney for her point of view. But since she didn’t even dine with the royalty, and certainly wasn’t in their bedroom, she couldn’t possibly have known what was going on there. The only thing that one can suppose connects the A and B stories, and we’re straining here, is that both involve ‘special relationships’, the one between countries more fruitful than the personal one.
Disappointing given the talent and situation, dull as ditchwater and historically suspect, another The Kings Speech it definitely is not. Nice costumes, though.