Attended the new movie today on Franklin Roosevelt. A rainy day in Phoenix. Twenty-four hours of rain, in fact. A good day for a movie, and this was a good one to watch.
Two weeks ago, Cousin Tina and I watched Lincoln by Stephen Spielberg. Today, Hyde Park on the Hudson. I have to be dragged to movies, but once in the theater, I always am glad I saw them.
In both cases, what I really appreciated was the attempt to recreate the ambiance of the era. Plot? Pretty thin. HIstoric accuracy? Pretty thin. But what a joy it is to sink into an approximation of what the best in the business think life was like back in those days. That is what I enjoy the most. The lamps. The lighting in the rooms. The furniture, even the wall paper. The constant smoking, which we know was a fact. The furtive, and also constant, drinking from flasks in the top drawer of the desk.
Bill Murray did a good job as FDR, although I don't think he captured Roosevelt's majesty and gravitas. However, the movie did capture very well the feelings of women who are in the service of (mistresses?) famous men. That was the film's main accomplishment, in addition to its depiction of the aesthetics of the time.
I have never felt drawn to understand FDR as I have been drawn to study Lincoln. However, I think this movie was probably a little bit harsh on FDR. The narrator of the movie was FDR's fifth cousin, who left a treasure trove of diaries about her relationship with FDR when she died at age 95. The editor of those diaries has not seen the movie, nor was he consulted, but said he "felt awful" that they were used to depict a sexual relationship, however crude, between the author of the diaries, Daisy, and FDR.
FDR was a deeply lonely man. That, at least, he shared with Lincoln. I think FDR's lonliness comes across in the Hyde Park movie, and I think it was a crucial element missing from the movie Lincoln. Lincoln was lonely, truly.
Loneliness is an interesting affliction. I am always interested in people in the public eye who confess that they are, despite adulation and attention, lonely. FDR was one, Lincoln another.