Sympathetic look loosely based on the relationship between tobacco heiress, Doris Duke (1912-1993) - think Duke University - and her shy butler, Bernard Lafferty. The icy and mercurial Duke fires her butler for serving a chilled cantaloupe; the agency sends Lafferty, formerly household staff to Liz Taylor and to Peggy Lee. He's an alcoholic, fresh out of rehab. He gradually becomes Duke's gay alter ego as she romps through life sleeping with young men, making shrewd decisions quickly, managing her fortune and orchids as Lafferty manages her New Jersey estate. With a wine cellar to die for, Bernard falls off the wagon. Can he pull himself together when Doris needs him?Written by
Famed true-crime author, journalist and mover within exclusive society and socialite circles, the late Dominick Dunne, makes a cameo appearance as a member of Doris Duke's advisory board. See more »
When Doris is reading her will, she identifies her city of residence as Somerville, New Jersey. Duke Farms, the site of Duke's residence, is actually in neighboring Hillsborough, New Jersey. Duke Farm now operates as a nature preserve and public park. See more »
A remarkably well told, subtle and moving movie. At first it might seem to about nothing, and the characters are stereotypes. But this is not at all the truth, as both Susan Sarandon and Ralph Fiennes are compelling and complex in their roles.
What finally happens between this butler who might have a drinking problem in his past and this woman who is a bit loose and unafraid of anyone is something neither of them expected. A kind of true love, though not in a normal, intimate way. Even better, really, respecting their different roles all along. Even at the end, when you know them and love them, the dramatic act that starts and then finishes the movie is tender and profound without a bit of sentiment or cheap heart-tugging. Well done!
The fact that this is based on a true story (loosely, they say) doesn't change the honest intimacy implied throughout. It's a quite movie—even as dramas go, it has lots of space and very quiet conversation. That's a strength, to me, but a warning to people looking for something more intense.
Mostly it's the really sincere, remarkable acting by the two leads, who take up almost every minute of screen time. You lose all sense that they are acting. Wonderful stuff. See it if it sounds like it might be your thing. Underrated.
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