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Bernard and Doris

34 customer reviews

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(Apr 29, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Inspired by the true story of tobacco billionairess Doris Duke and her devoted Irish butler Bernard Lafferty, the touching HBO Films drama Bernard and Doris stars Oscar® winner Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking) and Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient). After failed relationships with her previous waitstaff, Doris meets Lafferty, fresh out of rehab and without a penny to his name. She takes him on as her butler and he is put in the unenviable position of having to convince the notoriously demanding Duke to keep him in her employ. Directed by Bob Balaban (Gosford Park), the film effectively captures the elegance of a bygone era and is scored with countless musical standards, such as Peggy Lee's "The Best Is Yet To Come". Bernard and Doris tells the witty and endearing tale of an unconventional bond between a society "princess" and her flawed "pauper" of a butler.

Bravura turns by Ralph Fiennes and Susan Sarandon in the title roles carry Bernard and Doris, director Bob Balaban’s 2007 film about the long relationship between zillionaire tobacco heiress-philanthropist Doris Duke and her butler, Bernard Lafferty. These are two fine actors (Sarandon has been nominated for five Oscars, winning for Dead Man Walking, while Fiennes has been nominated twice) at the top of their games. That’s a good thing, as they are on screen almost constantly; and the truth is that other than the evolution of the Duke-Lafferty bond, not a lot actually happens. Sarandon delivers a measured, almost casual performance as Duke, a woman who seems relatively unpretentious (if clearly entitled) about her vast fortune, despite have done absolutely nothing to earn it. Duke barely even acknowledges her various employees, except to fire them (or occasionally sleep with them; the twice-married heiress has a predilection for studly, much younger men)--until Lafferty comes along, that is. Stone broke and fresh out of rehab (his alcoholism is an ongoing theme), the shy Irishman gradually ingratiates himself with his demanding employer until he becomes as much a companion as a servant. It helps that as a gay man, he has no interest in seducing her; moreover, unlike the many others who are out to get their hands on her money, Lafferty seems to genuinely value loyalty and friendship over more venal concerns ("I just want to take care of you," he says in one of several poignant scenes), and he’s rewarded with several million dollars and full control of her estate after her death (in 1993). Fiennes is also admirably restrained in a role that could have been meretricious and over the top; combine that with a fine script (by Hugh Costello) and some great songs by Peggy Lee, and a splendid time is guaranteed for all. --Sam Graham

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Various
  • Directors: Various
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: Unknown
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: April 29, 2008
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0012YN5AA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,331 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Bernard and Doris" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By KerrLines on March 2, 2008
Format: DVD
Anyone who occasionally listens to NPR or watches PBS has heard those words:"...and from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation..."

Doris Duke was the quintessential poor little rich girl, when at a young age,her millionaire father died,bypassing his wife, and leaving his entire fortune to his only heir,his daughter Doris.The opening credits of BERNARD AND DORIS flit by with newspaper headlines with the highlights of Doris growing up,marrying and divorcing numerous times,bailing Imelda Marcos out of jail for $5M,and news of her fortune growing and growing and growing.

Opening scene has Ms.Duke (a very sassy and played to perfection by Susan Sarandon!)casually dismissing her butler because "the cantaloupe is TOO cold"...and there it is!...get ready for a rough and interesting ride ahead that will cover the last years of this world class diva when she hires her new butler,Bernard Lafferty (a role chiseled for Ralph Fiennes) and the "unique" relationship that they forge against all sound advice. As only Bob Balaban could put such a humorous and touchingly ironic film together (I suppose after working so closely with the Christopher Guest gang lo these past years!Christopher Guest Collection (A Mighty Wind / Best in Show / Waiting for Guffman)), BERNARD AND DORIS takes two people ,totally from different walks in life,but believe in a common destiny and purpose and plan to this thing called life.

Sarandon and Fiennes are CONSUMMATE pros in this duet of oddness, and both show phenomenal expression and depth to their characters.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Boston Legal addict on February 15, 2008
Format: DVD
Having just now watched this movie I find it is still with me. Ralph Fiennes does an amazing and subtle acting job with miniscule changes in factial expression and body language....he is barely there and yet his presence is powerful. Susan Sarandon is totally believable in the part of Doris Duke and is drawn in, seemingly, into the vortex that is her butler. This movie is "based on truth" so one cannot assume a totally factual account of this relationship. It is but an interpretation. As such, I choose to believe that at a certain point in the "poor little rich girl's" life she has someone taking care of her in all the ways that matter and maybe for the first time in her life. Someone who honestly wants to be there for her and not her money. I've kept it on my dvr because I have a feeling I'll want to watch it again and purchase the DVD eventually. I gave it 5 stars because I lost track of time watching it and even now I'm not totally back to my world.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By B. Merritt VINE VOICE on January 2, 2009
Format: DVD
Watching two powerful and exceptionally talented actors play across from each other is something of a marvel, and that is certainly part of what makes BERNARD AND DORIS a great film.

Based around the late history of tobacco heiress Doris Duke (here played beautifully by Susan Sarandon, In the Valley of Elah) and her close relationship with butler Bernard Lafferty (the phenomenal Ralph Fiennes, In Bruges), the film is a fictional take on the pair's relationship. Although no one knows what really happened between them, it is obvious that a friendship of unique qualities emerged. And Ralph Fiennes and Susan Sarandon are to be complimented on their astounding performances. Particularly Mr. Fiennes, who seems to turn every role he touches into gold (he did this, too, with his portrayal of The Duke of Devonshire in The Duchess). That Ms. Duke left millions of dollars under the stewardship of Mr. Lafferty after her death is a documented fact, proving that she trusted him implicitly (Ms. Duke was a very savvy businesswoman).

Some might think that sex had a part to play in it, but that would be a fools mistake because Mr. Lafferty was gay. And Ralph Fiennes plays the part of an early homosexual with perfect subtlety. His blossoming occurs under the keen eye of Doris, and the two give each other what they both need: companionship. It is a touching moment when Doris -- in a flustered state -- yells as Bernard and asks him, "What do you want from me?!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Becky Rose on September 6, 2008
Format: DVD
This beautifully shot and extremely well acted film captures an unlikely friendship at it's heart and eventual co-dependency. Susan Sarandon is her at her finest and creates a dreaming yet real, vulnerable yet strong and well rounded complex 'Doris' while Ralph Fiennes plays a convincingly complexly dysfunctional butler with nothing but love and adoration for Mrs. Duke. It's a charming and delightful tale of misfits who find each other and feed each other's insatiable need for love. Well done.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Diatonic on April 17, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Quite amazing how good Sarandon and Fiennes are in their roles. Sarandon great; Fiennes superb. But the movie is constrained in some ways. All the action takes place on Duke's NJ estate; nothing seen of her other houses in Hawaii and in Rhode Island and in Los Angeles. She moved around a lot and this disguises that. Then no mention of her disastrous adoption late in life of the young woman she later disinherited. At the end when Fiennes injects her with a drug that does her in, no explanation at all. For a full picture one needs to see the story told from a wider perspective, the one done by Lauren Bacall as Duke and Richard Chamberlain as Bernard. There one gets the idea that her MD in LA where she died sent instructions re her care to the bevy of nurses attending her and that he probably ordered a lethal dose of some painkiller to end her agony. Both movies are good. I think the Bacall/Chamberlain has a slight edge.
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