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Bernard and Doris

review by Zach B.



Rating: TV-14

Running Time: 109 Minutes

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Ralph Fiennes, James Rebhorn

Written by: Hugh Costello

Directed by: Bob Balaban


Studio: HBO

Retail Price: $26.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Bob Balaban, Growing Up Rich: The Real Doris Duke

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Chapter Selection (12 Chapters)

Released: April 29th, 2008



"Bernard and Doris" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, just as it aired on HBO. The transfer is decent at best, as its chief problem is that its incredibly soft. Contrast is also upped way too much, as there is excessive noise and edge halos. Scenes with natural light often don't look too good either, as the film looks overexposed. The movie - which was shot digitally - often looks washed out, and color saturation seems a bit drained. Detail is decent, and fleshtones - while not perfect - are pretty consistent. In all, this is a pretty disappointing transfer.


The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is pretty front-centric. Given that this movie is very talky, there isn't much in way of surrounds except for a few choice sound effects - some of which are pretty subtle. Dialogue is very clear and easy to hear, while the channels do get some energy from the music featured in the movie, namely some classic pop standards (like Peggy Lee) and the score from Alex Wurman. Overall, it's a decent sound mix that meets expectations, given the material.

Also included is a Spanish Dolby Surround track, English closed captions, plus subtitles in English, French and Spanish.

The ever-durable and incredibly talented Bob Balaban is featured in an Audio Commentary. Despite some moments of silence, Balaban gives a pretty rich history of the project and the production itself. Balaban discusses how the project came to him, offers much praise and background info on more or less every cast member, information on locations, shooting in digital and even random asides (such as the dog in the movie died after filming, after eating a diseased rat in Central Park). Balaban is remarkably detailed here, and clearly enjoyed making this movie. If you enjoyed his work here, then this is worthy of your time.

The only other feature is the piece Growing Up Rich: The Real Doris Duke. Lasting 10 minutes, this is an excellent mini-biography on the film's subject. Balaban literally talks non-stop, and covers a tremendous amount: Duke's relationship with her mother, her divorce, her feelings about being in the public eye and her large amount of passions. The piece uses clips from the movie, but also crams in tons of newspaper clippings, photographs and assorted archival material. Balaban sure knows his subject. A definite must see.


"Bernard and Doris" is an intriguing and handsomely made film, mixing fact while exploring a "what if" scenario between Dorris Duke and one of her butlers. The performances - especially from leads Sarandon and Fiennes - are uniformly excellent, as is the direction from the supremely talented Bob Balaban. As far as a DVD, the presentation is nothing too special, but the commentary from Balaban and the featurette he hosts are quite good. Most definitely worth a rental, and worthy of a purchase if you're a fan of the film.