Once past an unnecessary prologue, this straight-forward account of FDR’s mid-life crises nicely lays out how he & Eleanor found previously untested strength by incorporating, rather than fleeing from, their public & private demons & limitations. Vet megger Joseph Sargent gives his excellent cast plenty of acting space & Kenneth Branagh responds by mining interior layers he rarely shows while Cynthia Nixon thankfully underplays Eleanor’s social gaucheries. Jane Alexander moves on from her old role as Eleanor to play FDR’s mother Sara without malice or exaggeration. David Paymer & Tim Blake Nelson also shine as aides, even if poor Kathy Bates isn’t given a thing to do. We’re still in the same basic territory covered by the glossy SUNRISE AT CAMPOBELLO/’60, but the slight change in tone from mythic to human makes it all fresh & moving. Too bad a generic score keeps reminding us that we’re watching an HBO movie.
DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned above, the B’way transfer SUNRISE AT CAMPOBELLO is still effective even if it now plays like a musical with the songs removed .