Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend at Bernie's

The greatest film ever made

Not since Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane has there been a movie to rival the majesty of Weekend at Bernie’s. This cinematic triumph is an insightful, intimate, harrowing examination of the human condition through the eyes of a dead guy. Lesser artists have tried and failed to achieve what director Ted “First Blood” Kotcheff does so effortlessly in WaB: Kubrick’s ‘ Apocalypse Now’ gazed at the shadow death casts over life, but missed the mark; ‘Gone With The Wind’ thought to bring us grandeur in its epic scope and sweeping narrative, but fails to do with ten thousand bodies what Bernie’s does with one. Both are pale reflections of the powerful life-affirming message brought to us by a corpse in a stripey shirt in Bernie’s.
The horror...the horror...

The polyester...the polyester...

Protagonists Larry ‘Lar’ Wilson and Richard ‘Rich’ Parker are the yin and yang of the corporate zeitgeist. One (Lar) is a workaday everyman, the other (Rich) epitomising the slick corporate operator. Director Ted “Law and Order:SVU” Kotcheff’s prescience is uncanny; Rich and Lar’s juxtaposition mirrors the fundamental conflict of the GFC twenty years before it hit.

"Bernie knew! Why didn't we LISTEN?!"

Their trip to Bernie’s island resort is a Dante-esque descent into Hell’s mouth; lured there after they uncover Bernie’s dirty dealings, the hitman he hires to deal with them kills Bernie himself, brutally driving home the timeless message that he who thinks to kill another ultimately kills himself. With the fleeting appearance of the bikini-clad Tawny (Eloise Broady, fresh from an arduous six-page photo-essay on the perils of lingerie), we see the Eurydice to Lar and Rich’s Orpheus, the ultimate, yet unachievable goal of their quest.
"Hi! I'm Tawny! I'm pretty! I like exclamation marks!"

An epic tale of comradeship and triumph against adversity ensues as they attempt to flee the unstoppable killer while partying down. The parallels with James Cameron’s masterful ‘Terminator’ are evident, though with more bikinis and ski boats. Underlying messages abound: when Bernie’s hairpiece comes away, Lar and Rich secure it with a staple gun, clearly a metaphor for our reluctance to surrender the things of youth.

The poster from the film's release in Poland. Any questions? Good.

Throughout the film’s 97 minutes we see Death, personified by the hitman, constantly on their heels, reminding us that our own mortality is always there, lurking in the shadows. And director Ted “Fun with Dick and Jane”  Kotcheff does not leave us cold with the ending. The killer is brought to justice, Lar and Rich get sweet jobs in some company, and there are more girls in bikinis. In the end, isn’t that what we all want?

Even now, Bernie’s resonates with cinema cognoscenti; IMDB user NewEnglandClamChowder says it best in his pithy summary: “<My favourite scene> has to be the "car chase", when they're in Bernie's golf cart and dodge the guy by going around the trees! SO funny!”

So say we all, NewEnglandClamChowder. So say we all.