HYDE PARK ON HUDSON

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NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by L.

Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney) brushes her teeth and reminisces about how, as a child, her family had been rich but the Great Depression had changed all that. She spends her life going from day to day, expecting nothing and taking care of her elderly mother. One day she gets a phone call and her mother asks if someone has died. Instead, Margaret has been summoned to her fifth or sixth cousin’s house to “help take his mind off work.” She is picked up in a car and driven to the Presidential house in Hyde Park, then ushered in to the oval office where Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) reclines in his chair.

Franklin is surprised to see her and apologizes for his mother, saying that he hoped she didn’t impose on Margaret. She confesses that Franklin's mother had claimed all their other relatives were away. Franklin smiles and tells her that his mother shouldn’t have said that. It’s been years since they’ve seen each other and Franklin encourages her to have some tea while he spikes his own with alcohol. He shows her his stamp collection – which features the heads of each of the countries.

Marguerite LeHand (Elizabeth Marvel), Franklin’s secretary, walks into the room to present Franklin with an important letter – he is surprised by the content and signs it, sending it off to a Senator whose vote is imperative to one of Franklin’s initiatives in Congress. Sara leaves the two staring at the stamp collection. Margaret confesses that some of the stamps are places she would like to go – since she’d like to go just about anywhere.

World War II is brewing over in Europe, but the Depression is all that is on Roosevelt’s mind – his time with Margaret in Hyde Park helped him forget the weight on his shoulders. Whenever he had time off, they would drive together into the countryside – in a special car that could be driven using only Franklin’s hands. In the countryside, they look at the hills and turn on the radio. Franklin reaches over and holds Margaret’s hand – putting it on his lap and letting her do the rest. After this, she becomes his mistress. As time passed, she would measure it only in Franklin’s visits.

During one visit, Franklin takes her to a secluded house which he has purchased and plans to live in once he retires. He tells her that he wishes that he could share this place with her – a place where she could come and miss him as he misses her. Soon, her visits to Hyde Park weren’t so out of the ordinary – and yet no one asked her why she was the cousin who was always coming around. Instead, the staff of Hyde Park on Hudson is focusing on the upcoming visit of King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, as no monarch from England had ever visited America before. Sara Delano (Elizabeth Wilson), Franklin’s mother, fusses over every detail so that it will be perfect.

Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams) comes out complaining about how Franklin’s mother told Eleanor not to address the Queen informally. As Eleanor wheels Franklin around, Margaret comments on how she always heard that the Roosevelts had a troubled relationship and lived fairly separate lives – but this is not what Margaret saw then: she saw a happily married couple. In order to escape from the hectic preparations, Franklin retreats to the stables to work with Marguerite, Margaret, and Eleanor. While Eleanor badmouths the royal family, Franklin interrupts to make it clear that the monarchs are young and should be given some degree of understanding.

King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) are being driven, and George asks if they should stop and meet some people. When their advisor informs them that they must keep on schedule, the Queen points out that George wants a cigarette. George points out that he doesn’t want to be early and that he’d like to meet some Americans. Instead, they stop next to a farmer’s field and George gets to have his smoke. George inquires about the Roosevelts and he is informed of the fact that Roosevelt lives at Hyde Park with his mother while Eleanor has her own house.

As the royal car pulls in, Margaret muses on the fact that half the cabinet was against the visit since the country was in no condition to take sides in another European war – which was why Franklin invited them to his private house where they would be out of the public eye. King George and Franklin shake hands while Eleanor gets acquainted with the Queen. The monarchs are given a tour of the house while Franklin is carried into the living room to host them for tea.

While this is going on, Margaret goes about her “mission” on behalf of Franklin – to spy behind enemy lines. She is introduced to the monarchs' advisor, James Cameron (Andrew Havill), briefly before wandering into the room where the Queen and Eleanor are lounging. Standing there awkwardly, she asks if there is anything she can do before Eleanor shoos her out of the room. Alone, Eleanor asks the Queen if she minds being called Elizabeth. The Queen awkwardly says that she doesn’t have a problem with it and admires the two beds in the bedroom.

Margaret visits Franklin in his office where he mixes drinks for himself. She reports that everyone is getting along. She confesses that the King is much younger that she had imagined and that he seems nervous. Franklin points out that the King may not be King of a nation much longer, with all the developments brewing over in Europe. He spills a drink on his lap, and Margaret comes and wipes off the spilled drink. While she does this, Franklin asks her if she’d like to get away after dinner and she says she’d like that – promising that the dinner will be a great success.

The Queen enters the King’s bedroom where George is staring at some old cartoons framed on the wall, which mock the British soldiers during the War of 1812. Franklin’s mother apologized and said that she tried to have them removed, but Franklin refused. They suspect that the president is making fun of them – a theory compounded by the fact that they will be served hot dogs at a public event the following day (unaware that hot dogs are not made from dogs). The King is desperate for American assistance and pours himself a few drinks. The Queen points out that George’s brother wouldn’t have stood for such insults, and the King starts to stutter.

When Sara enters the room and sees the alcohol, she goes ballistic – having lived with a drinker before. Franklin roars that the monarchs are his guests, and he will serve whatever he likes – even if it is Sara’s house. Eleanor hears the ruckus and comes down to see what is happening, but Franklin dismisses them all in order to meet with the King in private. When he arrives, Franklin asks which the King would prefer – tea or cocktails. The King stutters but insists that he would much prefer a cocktail. They talk into the evening until they are joined by the Queen, Eleanor, and the rest for dinner – while Margaret walks the grounds alone on what she thought of as a perfect summer night.

Franklin toasts the King and Queen right before a tray carrying all the fruit collapses to the floor for no reason. Margaret goes outside and mingles with the chauffeurs. Inside, a server trips and spills more food. The King quips about the occurrence while Franklin sends Marguerite to find Margaret and send her home.

Franklin asks the King to wheel him into his personal study. Over drinks, Franklin asks if George collects stamps, but George confesses that he wasn’t a serious collector. Franklin says that there are some times when he would like to spend the day in bed, but his wife, and strong women – like the Queen – wouldn’t let him do it. He tells George that George will be a very fine King and that George’s father would be proud and adds that if he were George’s father he would be proud.

George, overcome with his stuttering, begins to tell Franklin that he expects death to rain upon Britain from the Germans but can’t finish speaking. Franklin and George bond over their mutual weaknesses - Franklin’s polio-riddled legs and George’s stutter. Franklin points out that no one really talks about George’s stutter because it’s not what they want to see. He points out that people tend to be disappointed when they find out who their leaders really are.  They share a smoke and Franklin tells George that they should have another drink.

George leaves at the end of the night, and visits Elizabeth to tell her how they bonded. She’s upset about George sharing some of their stories – including the one about George putting the crown on the wrong way during his coronation – but George points out that Franklin made fun of himself, as well. They were acting like human beings.  He then points out that hot dogs are not what they thought and that there’s no meaning behind any of the perceived slights. George tells Elizabeth that if a war occurs, America could be persuaded to join the cause. Elizabeth rants that the Americans are made up of people that Britain rejected in some form or another over the years – the Irish, the Jews, etc. – and that those people want to see them fail. George assures her that they just need to be a bit more confident about themselves.

Margaret can’t sleep, so she drives out to the house that Franklin had made where she could be alone and visit him. She lights a cigarette and smokes, thinking about Franklin when a bright light is pointed in her face. It’s one of Franklin’s Secret Service agents, and he informs her that the president can’t be disturbed. Marguerite comes out without any shoes and asks her if she would like to see the president – realizing that Franklin has been sleeping with Marguerite as well, Margaret bolts into the woods with Marguerite in pursuit.

When she returns to her car, Marguerite is in the backseat with the keys and forces Margaret to listen; eventually she will come to accept that Franklin is a man of many passions and will accept that he will see both of them – in addition to Eleanor and a third mistress – each playing an important role in his life. She points out that she had been Franklin’s mistress before Margaret arrived and that she took it hard when she learned of the one before her.  She tells Margaret that ultimately, she can choose what happens next: forgive Franklin or just get on without him. Marguerite exits the vehicle and leaves Margret to her own thoughts.

In the early morning, Franklin sits shuffling cards while his mother sits nearby. Margaret walks in, and Franklin says that he owes her an apology for not giving her a place at the dinner earlier. Margaret imagines screaming at Franklin and telling him that he can’t get away with what he did or get off the hook that easily. She storms off, unaware that she’s being observed by the King and Queen from the window. They also see Marguerite pacing and smoking a cigarette and connect the dots. Elizabeth insists that George not eat the hot dog tomorrow because it is an insult to the royal family and all of Britain.

The next day, the luncheon occurs. The press is there, and Margaret sits very far away from the president with her mother, but Franklin calls her over – seating her with his wife and the monarchs. Eleanor brings out a pair of Cherokee Indians who perform a dance for the monarchs. Then the hot dogs are brought out for the King, and he is asked if he will take it with mustard. Franklin has Margaret spread mustard over the hotdog, and the king takes a bite – which the press takes pictures of; a humanizing moment that would make him much more loved in the American public eye. Soon after, he and the Queen leave for England – but not before sending a telegraph which stated that the two nations now had a very special bond.

Franklin sends a car around for Margaret but she pretends that she is ill so that she will not have to see him. After a week, he drove in person to see Margaret. She gets in the car, and they drive off together. Over the years, Margaret and Marguerite become closer – sharing everything with one another as they continue to see Franklin separately. She learned all about Marguerite’s health issues and that Franklin changed his will so that she would receive half of his possessions if she outlived him. But when Marguerite fell ill, Franklin paid for everything yet did not visit Marguerite once in the hospital. When Margaret asked him why, Franklin simply stated that his terrible fault was that he hated to be around illness. A few years passed and Margaret watched him grow tired, frail and ill, and though he tried to hide it – he could not hide it from her. As Franklin is driven off, press at his heels, everyone only sees what Franklin allows them to see.

The End

a.w.


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