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Without You I'm Nothing (1990)

R  |   |  Comedy, Musical  |  11 May 1990 (USA)
6.7
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 415 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 12 critic

Sandra Bernhard stars in a studio version of her off-Broadway show, blending re-enactments of the original show's pieces with concept vignettes and 'testimonials' to underscore the relationship between a performer and an audience.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Herself
...
Himself
...
Himself
Lu Leonard ...
Sandra's Manager
...
Emcee
...
Roxanne
Grace Broughton ...
'Female' Backup Singer
Kimberli Williams ...
'Female' Backup Singer
Axel Vera ...
'Female' Backup Singer
Estuardo Volty ...
'Female' Backup Singer (as Estuardo M. Volty)
Kevin Dorsey ...
Male Backup Singer
Arnold McCuller ...
Male Backup Singer
Oren Waters ...
Male Backup Singer
...
Child Caroler (as Vonte' Sweet)
Tonya Natalie Townsend ...
Child Caroler
Edit

Storyline

Sandra Bernhard stars in a studio version of her off-Broadway show, blending re-enactments of the original show's pieces with concept vignettes and 'testimonials' to underscore the relationship between a performer and an audience.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Musical

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

11 May 1990 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Gross:

$1,218,730 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Film debut of Djimon Hounsou. See more »

Quotes

Sandra: It was a portrait Normal Rockwell forgot to paint: someone's mother home again ^Å in oils.
See more »

Connections

References The Accused (1988) See more »

Soundtracks

Me and Mrs. Jones
Performed by Sandra Bernhard
See more »

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User Reviews

 
"...how truly beautiful I am..."
7 November 2003 | by (Washington, DC) – See all my reviews

Sandra Bernhard's Without You I'm Nothing, the movie released in 1990, followed on the heels of her 1988 off-Broadway stage production ... what she and others refer to in the movie as her "smash-hit one-woman show."

There were several changes in monologues and one-liners, and the movie version visually re-vamps the story, taking Sandra from a fabulous existence as a successful stage performer in New York, during what she calls her "superstar summer," to an illusory, almost desperate existence back in her home in Los Angeles - her fictional manager in the film refers to it as getting Sandra back "to her roots, to ... upscale supper clubs like the Parisian Room."

There's a point to be made here. Sandra tries to appeal her liberal worldview and her sometimes harsh critique of American pop culture to an audience that doesn't completely see it. In L.A. she's playing to a predominantly black audience, trying to relate her ideas when all these people seem to want is "Shashonna," a Madonna-look-alike stripper. And even then, with Shashonna dancing to drum beats that resemble those from "Like a Virgin," there's not much to be said for the audience's enjoyment of the show. The scene in the club throughout the movie is dryer than a bone. A funny scene to catch is of a rotund man from the audience helping Shashonna out of her pants.

But, if she's going down, Sandra's doing so with style and force, conveying everything from foul confidence to punctured vulnerability ... right to the point at which she's naked (literally), pleading for acceptance and yet somehow still swimming in the pool of her own transparent stardom. Her depictions of interactions with the likes of Calvin Klein, Jerry Lewis, Bianca Jagger, Ralph Lauren and (what we're lead to believe is) Warren Beatty are fictional and hilarious.

Sandra begins her show in her most awkward moment, performing a quiet but mystifying rendition of Nina Simone's song "Four Women" while dressed in a mufti and other African garb, singing lines such as "my skin is black," "my hair is wooly," and "they call me Sweet Thing."

She resurrects and celebrates the ghosts of underworld art in a tremendously funny description of the frenzied estate auction for Andy Warhol: "Leave it to Andy to have the wisdom and sensitivity into the hours and hours of toil and labor that went into the Indian product ... that they've been so lucky to cash in on this whole Santa Fe thing happening."

She expounds on the excessiveness of Hollywood, consoling a distraught friend then admonishing him, saying "Mister, if this is about Ishtar, I'm getting up right now and walking out of your life forever because that's too self-indulgent even for me!"

Sandra illustrates the expectations of women in the age of feminism. Dressed as a Cosmo girl, Sandra retells her young-girl fantasy to become an executive secretary and marry her boss. She eventually concludes in relief, "I'll never be a statistic, not me. I'm under 35, and I'm going to be married!"

Sandra extols the opening of sexuality in society: "When he touches you in the night, does it feel all right, or does it feel real? I say it feels real... MIGHTY real."

Finally, she cries for change in progressive American society by channeling disco greats Patrick Cowley and Sylvester and proclaiming, "Eventually everyone will funk!"

All this comes in the form of glitzy, schmaltzy but wonderful cabaret performances of songs written and originated by Billy Paul, Burt Bacharach, Hank Williams and Laura Nyro, to name a few. At the same time, the idealized, fictional incarnation of Sandra -- her self-generated mirror image -- floats around town, a beautiful black model with flowing gowns and tight bustiers reading the Kabala, studying chemistry and listening to NWA rap music.

In Without You I'm Nothing, Sandra Bernhard explores emotions and existences that, up until then, she'd only toyed with as a regular guest on Late Night With David Letterman. Her almost child-like enthusiasm for shock, exhibited throughout the '80s, is thrown aside in the face of a subtler allure, and her confidence in the face of materialism and American celebrity proves refreshing. This approach to comedy would change Sandra's direction forever and mark the more mature, more personable entertainer to come.

If you like subtle humor to the point of engaging in inside jokes about glamour, celebrity, sex, loneliness, despair and shallow expressions of love and kinship, this movie will keep you in stitches. It may not be meant to be funny across the board. Perhaps it's a bit unsettling or even maudlin for some. But consider the emptiness of the world Sandra paints for you, and you'll understand just how funny and brilliant she really is.

But see Without You I'm Nothing with a friend "in the know" because it's definitely funnier that way. Before you know it, the two of you will be trading Sandra barbs and confusing the hell out of everyone else.


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