“Hyde Park on Hudson,” starring Bill Murray as Franklin Roosevelt, chronicles a visit the king and queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) made to FDR’s Hudson Valley, New York estate in 1939 to enlist support in the coming war with Germany.
The narrator is Daisy Suckley, a distant cousin of the president’s and one of his mistresses. Laura Linney plays her as such a sparkless thing (or maybe the blame belongs to the director, Roger Michell) that it’s unlikely the glamorous Roosevelt would even want to have her over for tea.
Both the royals are terrible stiffs, so outraged that hot dogs are on the menu for a picnic in their honor that you wonder if they think they’re going to be eating real ones.
Richard Nelson, the writer, shows no interest at all in the politics of the situation.
When the movie isn’t busy leering at Roosevelt’s sexual appetite, it’s reducing the wheelchair-bound president and the stuttering king -- two leaders who had a large part in saving the world -- to their maladies, adding extra sympathy in the form of dollops of sludge from Jeremy Sams’s perky-maudlin score.
And Murray? He’s the one bright spot. Though he isn’t a convincing FDR, it’s fun to contemplate, as your mind wanders, how far he’s come from the mock-sleazy lounge lizard he used to play on “Saturday Night Live.”
The filmmakers look down on everyone else -- including the audience, which they hold in such low esteem that they consider it necessary to attach an end title explaining that in time the United States did enter the war on the side of Britain.
“Hyde Park on Hudson,” from Focus Features, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: * (Seligman)
There’s no more point in griping about “Playing for Keeps” than there is in complaining about the slightly overdone slab of medium-grade beef that arrives on your plate at a chain steakhouse. What were you expecting?
What you get here is Gerard Butler as George Dryer, a has- been Scottish footballer who’s moved to Virginia to be near his little boy (Noah Lomax) and his ex-wife (Jessica Biel), who’s about to remarry. I would never, ever reveal what happens.
Before anything does, George spends some time turning his son’s lackluster soccer team into champions. Most Little League movies concentrate on how the coach inspires the team. This one shows no interest in the sport or any of the other kids.
Instead it focuses on George’s drab (though busy) sex life. The movie’s one distinction is the trio of good actresses --
Judy Greer, Catherine Zeta-Jones and a bitterly funny Uma Thurman (reprising, with a suburban twist, her “Pulp Fiction” character) -- playing soccer moms who throw themselves at him.
Written by Robbie Fox and directed by Gabriele Muccino, it’s competently made and inoffensive enough. If you were hoping for something more, you came to the wrong film.
“Playing for Keeps,” from FilmDistrict, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ** (Seligman)
The private dancers, gamblers, bookies and assorted strivers in Stephen Frears’s “Lay the Favorite” are an oddly chipper lot.
That distinction aside, this sentimental Vegas tale of the betting life might most generously be written off as a misguided lark for the talented director and a cast that includes Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vince Vaughn.
Rebecca Hall (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) plays Beth Raymer, the real stripper-turned-author (“Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling”) whose life can’t have been this gooey.
With her Daisy Duke shorts and wide-eyed sensuality, Beth ditches cocktail waitress dreams to become the protege (among other things) of professional gambler Dink (Willis).
Dink, whose sartorial flair is limited to baggy shorts, oversize shirts and white knee-high tube socks, has a romantic fling with Beth before ex-showgirl wife Tulip (Zeta-Jones) puts a stop to the affair and Beth’s new career.
Despite a promising relationship with nice-guy journalist Jeremy (Joshua Jackson), Beth moves to Florida for a job with outlaw bookie Rosie (Vaughn).
When the new gig goes sour -- the FBI can be so persnickety -- Beth’s gold-hearted Vegas pals come to the rescue.
The screenplay by D.V. DeVincentis (Frears’s “High Fidelity”) finds little drama in this low-stakes saga, and the director apparently sees a charm in his heroine that makes no appearance onscreen.
Looking bored, Vaughn and Willis resort to old tics, Zeta- Jones emotes and Jackson fades away.
Hall’s unconvincing Baby Doll mannerisms are cloying from the start and her amateurish performance -- the only risk this film takes -- is a bet with no payoff.
“Lay the Favorite,” from the Weinstein Company, is playing in select theaters. Rating: * (Evans)
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Good ** So-So * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)
Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater and New York weekend.
To contact the writers on the story: Greg Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org. and Craig Seligman at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.