Movie: Bernard and Doris
My Rating: 3 stars
Now, here’s an interesting film. I can’t say it’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen. But, it’s a true story (with dramatic embellishments, of course), and it’s a pretty wild one. This movie tells the story of billionaire Doris Duke, and her trusty manservant, Bernard. He’s the one that everyone thought had her brainwashed and was holding her captive in her own home. So, this movie really takes the audience through their very complicated relationship, from the beginning, right to the end.
The two lead characters are played by Ralph Fiennes and Susan Sarandon, and they are magnificent. These actors are able to capture just how problematic these two personalities were, and unpack the toxic byproduct of their relationship. These two had fun together, but they also got themselves into some pretty deep trouble. Doris Duke was well known as a great philanthropist. But she was also a deeply unhappy alcoholic. In Bernard, she found a true confidant—someone prepared to dedicate his whole life to serving her and becoming close to her. When someone is tending another person’s every need, day in and day out, the two start to get to know each other very well, and the lines in their relationship start to blur. From what I could tell, Bernard really did care for Doris. Their relationship grew into something more than just an employer/employee arrangement. Unfortunately, Bernard was also a chronic alcoholic too. So, this pair just ended up enabling each other. And with billions of dollars at their disposal, they could get up to quite a lot of trouble.
The rumors about unlawful imprisonment and brainwashing were largely caused by the fact that Doris Duke left her whole estate to Bernard when she died. And I’ll admit, that does seem a little shady. But neither one of them really had their hands clean when it came to the motives behind their actions. And, Doris Duke was always known for her rash decisions. This movie does an excellent job of showing us just how a bond as unhealthy as this one may have formed. The acting is excellent. And, the movie really works well as a psychological portrait, even if there really isn’t a story and nothing ever happens. I don’t think I’d recommend you go out of your way to track down this film. But, if you stumble across is and have the time, it’s worth your time.