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
After being shown at a film festival, "Bernard and Doris" was sent directly to cable television rather than premiering in movie theatres. 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 »
I wasn't sold on the idea of watching a film about a rich weirdo and the lawsuits that entail, post-mortem, ala "LIFETIME" nightly movies. I wanted to see Ralph work with Susan, but I still wouldn't have watched unless I researched the production of "Bernard and Doris". I saw Bob Balaban is directing.
I've never seen Bob Balaban's work as director. I've enjoyed all of Bob's acting credits which I've seen, particularly his improvisational skills in recent SCTV/Spinal Tap-quality films. I figure Bob knows the HW weirdness like nobody else due to his insightful improvisations. He gets it.
Therefore, he could do it, and bring it in below budget.
Great direction: Lighting and cinematography were far better than recent films I paid money for. I haven't seen Ralph perform this well since QUIZ SHOW, but he brought his talents to what was clearly a communal table of talent.
Susan Sarandon does very well, and the Susan/Ralph team works. The script works, and sells the story.
Balaban seems to have done much more with far less than this film portends to be, even for an HBO FILM.
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