It's not particularly fair or constructive to compare Hyde Park on Hudson to The King's Speech. They are vastly different in terms of quality and tone -- but the analogue between the two is still there. Tom Hooper's 2010 Oscar-winner tells the story of King George VI (Colin Firth) who must overcome his stutter in order to project firm leadership against the growing threat of Germany. The other side of that tale is told in Hyde Park, which centers on the June 1939 weekend that basically formed the modern state of U.S. and British affection.
Nothing to Fear. Bill Murray’s portrayal of FDR in Hyde Park on Hudson lacks gravitas but is likable all the same.
King George (as played by Samuel West, Law and Order: UK), has a lot of doubts. Hitler is breathing down his neck and he has some fairly deep self esteem issues due to his stutter. Having come to rule only because his brother, Edward, abdicated to marry an American divorcee, George still questions his fitness for the throne and his legitimacy. When it becomes clear that war is headed England's way, George -- and Queen Elizabeth -- make the first ever visit to America by British monarchs, that they might convince FDR to help against the onslaught of the Reich.
Roosevelt (a charming Bill Murray), of course, has a condition of his own. Hobbled by polio, FDR is already a man who has overcome the perception of weakness in an imperfect leader (with the help of a respectful media that downplayed Roosevelt's impediment as much as George's speech lessons helped alleviate his). In a seeming spirit of frivolity, FDR hosts the King and Queen at his estate in Hyde Park for negotiations, and a penultimate picnic featuring Native American drums and hot dogs. "Are they making fun of us?" asks a frazzled Elizabeth (Olivia Colman, Hot Fuzz). George has no idea.
Of course, history is a spoiler. We already know how the nervous king's request turned out since we lined up and helped the British kill a bunch of Nazis. But what we didn't know (or at least I didn't) was that FDR was boning his fifth cousin, Daisy (Laura Linney, The Squid and the Whale). Considering the historical accuracy and the importance of the setting, that first handjob came out of nowhere.
It's Hyde Park on the Hudson's tonal mishmash that undermines the film. Based on a script by Richard Nelson (Ethan Frome) and directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill), Hyde Park is told from the perspective -- and is based on the writings of -- Roosevelt's cousin-with-benefits, who was a part of FDRs inner circle, right along with wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams, Anna Karenina) and his tee-totaling mother (Elizabeth Wilson).
Respectfully hagiographic, Daisy's perspective becomes a character study of Roosevelt and King George and their providential meeting, as well as a chronicle of her doomed love. Somewhere in between those things are the makings of a really interesting story which director Michell, unfortunately, fails to capitalize upon.
Handsome cinematography from Lol Crawley (Four Lions) and fine art direction lend the feel of a well-made BBC production when combined with the script, which balances culture clash and sitcom tropes with historical significance. Sure, George won over the Americans and changed the course of history, but the payoff is comparable to a sports movie where the runty kid scores a minor-league, game-winning goal. Despite FDR being a really horny guy who held the balance of world power in his wandering hands, somehow the dramatic payoff is a dude taking a bite out of a hotdog.
Bill Murray is clearly not playing himself. He's also a bit of stunt casting. People forget he can do drama without his trademark quirk but part of the appeal is that this is Bill Murray playing one of America's most revered presidents. The script draws him in fairly shallow terms (and Daniel Day-Lewis already has a lock on memorable presidents), content to dwell on Roosevelt's ringmaster omniscience of both King George and the various women he was screwing who weren't his wife. Murray brings his A-game and creates an affable FDR, but it's still superficial. Perhaps he would kill doing Sunrise at Campobello, but here his fairly detailed turn is lost in a weightless, if pleasant, film.
The real joys of Hyde Park are Samuel West and Olivia Colman as George and Elizabeth. Their charm lightens film's rich yet boring pace, making for the best scenes, particularly when George excitedly comes back to Elizabeth's room after getting shitfaced with FDR and confesses his hopes and everything else he said about their plight, except for what he said about her. Still not as exciting as it sounds.
Hyde Park on Hudson is not bad enough to damn, and it's certainly too light-hearted to hate. I couldn't help thinking about how impossible it would be for a current president to schtup his fifth cousin, court an historically contentious monarchy and overcome a handicap that would have disqualified him for the job in 2012, while winning World War II. Good thing there wasn't a 24-hour news cycle.
Texas Chainsaw 3D
I'm probably going to put more thought into why Texas Chainsaw 3D sucks than the filmmakers put into the movie itself.
A brief history: Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a seminal 1974 bit of nastiness about a group of teens on a road trip, who run across murderous, cannibalistic family at their rural house in Texas because that's where you find murderous cannibals. Go ask.
Based somewhat on the story of serial killer Ed Gein, who was fond of wearing other people's faces, the shock value of Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a sensation at the time that still works now. While not particularly gory by modern terms, TCM has an almost pornographically realist quality. It's not just money shots (Leatherface clubbing Jerry and dragging him like twitching cattle through that steel door being the most memorable) but it's also just really mean spirited. They make the handicapped kid the asshole, and you're kind of glad when he dies.
Point being, it was so awesome that it already inspired six sequels, none of which (even Hooper's own, fun Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) captured the guerilla-style beauty of the original. It's the definition of a film that can be remade, but can't be overcome.
So the makers of Texas Chainsaw 3D clearly took the easiest route. Ignore the past and make a direct sequel in the cheapest, most hilariously misconceived and predictable way possible.
This Here Is Private Property. Texas Chainsaw 3D has everything you want in a bad movie: a screaming baby, a chicken hanging from the ceiling, and a creepy old guy in the corner.
Picking up directly after the events of the 1974 film, we learn that the escape of Sally brought the attention of the law, a lone Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry) and worse, a militia of rednecks who slaughter Leatherface's family and burn down their house right in front of a cop who does nothing to stop or later prosecute them. One redneck couple (David Born and Sue Rock) rescues a baby girl from the carnage and raises her as their own.
Roughly 20 years later, Heather (Alexandra Daddario) is working as a butcher at a grocery store when she gets a package from a lawyer (Richard Riehle, Office Space) informing her of an inheritance from a grandmother she didn't know she had -- palatial property in rural Texas. Turns out granny is somehow harboring Leatherface and needs Heather to take over guard duty.
Heather doesn't know this yet, so she brings along her friends to check out the new place. Spoiler: They all die.
Directed by John Luessenhop (Takers), who shoots the film at ass-level, from a story by a slew of screenwriters; this group of trolls collectively crafts one of the laziest movies I've ever seen. Texas Chainsaw 3D is so predictable, poorly thought out and obviously dumb that it almost became fun.
The film begins in 1974, but our 20-year-oldish protagonist is living in 2012 (the date is on her gammy's tombstone), which means she should actually be closer to 40 and Leatherface should be dead of old age. The script literally cheats time -- Heather pours through news clippings of the massacre that carry no year -- while the story does its best to not connect itself to modern conveniences like Google or cell phones. But nitpicking like that doesn't really matter much when every single character -- so vacuously drawn, clichéd, and Hot Topically hot -- make such stupid fucking decisions. A list would fill another column.
But when Heather and Leatherface finally reconcile and join familial forces (thanks to her tits) to kill some rednecks, I laughed my ass off. The predictability and disregard of self-awareness, the flat performances, plot holes, and misguided character motivations (Leatherface loves his family; Heather was a closet psycho all along, who can't act) become mind boggling in their misconceived absurdity.
Texas Chainsaw 3D is a boring, cheap and vapid hunk of shit. That the filmmakers think they are reinventing the wheel is the funniest joke of all.
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