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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 »
The Extraordinary Relationship Between a Billionairess and Her Butler
Bob Balaban has made and contributed to an array of interesting films as writer, director and actor. His directorial venture focuses on the relationship of billionairess Doris Duke and her loyal butler Bernard Lafferty. Hugh Costello's writing is solid. The characterization seems accurate enough (at least based on what I've read about Duke and Lafferty). Both are portrayed as strong yet vulnerable humans. Duke did live an unusual life that involved alcohol and casual sex but she enjoyed the freedom of life and travelling. She lived with passion and believed strongly in causes to set up foundations. She was also an excellent businesswoman and loved her plants, especially her orchids. And, this film captures that brilliantly and one can see why a shy Bernard who also shared the same weakness with alcohol would be so taken by a woman like Doris Duke. She can be a difficult woman, especially to those working for her but her appealing sense of liveliness, passion and devotion was admirable and Bernard appreciated that. The tenderness and care in their relationship is portrayed beautifully. Susan Sarandon and Ralph Fiennes are stupendous. Both have effectively captured the essence and strength of their characters delivering strong performances. In addition, the cinematography and art direction are brilliant. Overall, Balaban and Costello have presented an interesting perspective and an intriguing account of a fascinating woman and her relationship with her butler.
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