Thursday, April 25, 2013

Presidential Movies

Titles:  Lincoln (Steven Spielberg, Director; Doris Kearns Goodwin/Tony Kushner, Writers)
           Hyde Park on Hudson (Roger Michell, Director; Richard Nelson, Writer)

Ratings:  ** (2 stars out of 3 possible, "B") for Lincoln
              Highly Recommended

              0 stars out of 3 possible, "D"/"F" for Hyde Park on Hudson
              Not Recommended

Audience:  Lincoln, PG-13
                 Hyde Park on Hudson, R

America loves its presidents, and sometimes loves to hate them.  I thought it interesting that two of our most polarizing presidents were both subjects of feature films in 2012.

I intended to review Lincoln much earlier.  By now, everyone is already aware of both the quality of the film itself, as well as the performances by most of the cast.  I was initially hesitant, given Tony Kushner as the screenwriter, that one might sense a hidden, liberal agenda.  Every political entity tries to claim some sort of kinship with our 16th president, but this film portrayed him genuinely:  principled, yet flawed; politically astute, yet homespun.

To truly enjoy the film, the audience member should not mind a slower-moving historical drama with significant portions of political discourse.  Recall the film only portrays the last 6 months or so of Lincoln's life.  Was Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Lincoln Oscar-worthy?  Yes!

If you wonder whether Representative Thaddeus Stevens (played by Tommy Lee Jones) really did have an LTR with his black housekeeper, it is historical fact; not Hollywood convenience.  Keep in mind, however, the greatest modern-day application of the abolition of slavery does not regard the state of marriage in our country, but rather our scourge of abortion.

It is anathema ("an accursed thing") to even mention a film like Hyde Park on Hudson in the same review with Lincoln.  This "biopic" about a few years of FDR's presidency was a true Hollywood production, relying on uncomfortable sexual liaisons and only the slightest conjecture of anything historical.

Bill Murray's potential talent was mostly wasted in portraying a lecherous FDR.  I actually cringed at his leering and manipulative treatment of the women in his life.  Likewise, Laura Linney played an insipid, groveling second cousin.  When FDR's secretary confronted Linney's character about the "honor" involved in keeping the President's harem confidential I was ready to turn off the DVD player!

I was and still am appalled at the weakness of seemingly smart women to tolerate such behavior and destroy their power and dignity.  It makes me want to shout:  "Don't give it away, Sister!"  Thank God better examples exist in history and in my family for my daughters!

Hyde Park on Hudson took a significant and fascinating time in our history and turned it into bizarre melodrama.  It wasn't a romance; it wasn't a drama; it wasn't history; it wasn't much of anything.  I can only hope this review saves someone $2 and a most disappointing experience.  See The King's Speech instead!

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