Illustration: Adeline Pericart
Blisters on your shoulders, sand in your underwear, coughing up seawater and being packed into a caravan with the entire extended family – the sweet, sweet memories of summer’s past. Thank God we have film to look back on with pleasure. And so the Film Ireland sun lovers lay down their towels, unwrap a Cornetto and recall their favourite summer films in the latest installment of We Love… Summer. Charlene Lydon spends the Weekend at Bernie’s.
Now lash on the sunblock…
Weekend at Bernie’s
The beauty of summer movies is that they don’t have to be classy, they don’t have to be clever, they just need to be fun! For me at least, Weekend at Bernie’s has a lot to offer those in need of some summer madness. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, here’s the plot in a nutshell. Larry and Richard, two down on their luck office workers uncover an anomaly which suggests someone is ripping off the insurance corporation they work for. Their shady boss Bernie, the real culprit, invites them to his place in The Hamptons during a massive New York heatwave where he plans to have them ‘silenced’. The plot thickens when the dodgy characters Bernie is involved with decide to ‘silence’ him instead, killing him and leaving him propped up at his desk with sunglasses on. When Larry and Richard arrive for their well-deserved weekend of fun, they realise what has happened but fate (and the prospect of ‘getting laid’) intervenes to ensure that they can’t quite find the time to phone the cops.
In the true spirit of ’80s comedy, a lot of over-the-top nonsense ensues whereby Larry and Richard must pretend to everyone, from party to party that Bernie is alive, just kind of ‘wasted’. This is easier than you imagine when everyone’s an airhead, a floozy or just completely hammered for the whole weekend. This is 1980’s New York we’re talking about here, hedonism is rampant for the well-heeled. Weekend at Bernie’s feels like Some Like it Hot crossed with a Bret Easton Ellis novel, completely ridiculous, over the top and slyly commenting on the hollow lifestyles of the rich and famous. Is that a stretch? Maybe it is.
At the heart of Weekend at Bernie’s is the desperate hunger to get out of the heat of Manhattan. The director does a good job of painting a picture of the unpleasantness of New York City in the sticky heatwave. It looks like the last place you’d ever want to be and therefore somewhat believably gives the guys an incentive to want to stay in The Hamptons at all cost. Disbelief must be suspended tremendously if you are to have any fun watching this film, but if you can just roll with it, it’s very funny and has an unjustly ignored fantastic central performance from Terry Kiser as Bernie. For two thirds of the film, he is dead. He has no lines. But the physicality of his performance is more than admirable, it’s downright brilliant!
With a premise like this, you’ll either love the film or hate the film, but it’s difficult not to crack a guilty smile here and there at the sheer absurdity and hideous lack of morality displayed by pretty much everyone in the film. Necrophilia, grave-robbing, desecration of a corpse via staple-gun, if it weren’t so damn sunny and nonchalant this would be a dark, dark piece of cinema. We’d all be shifting uncomfortably in our seats, unable to stay on board with these horribly selfish characters. But if you can allow yourself the indulgence Weekend at Bernies will evoke that feeling of desperately trying to enjoy the perfect summer weekend when you know it’s fleeting, even if you have to cart a corpse around with you to do it.
Sun, sand, women in bikinis, speedboats, creepy kids armed with a bucket and spade and of course a dead guy with his shoelaces tied to your shoelaces as you cruise the beach… that’s the recipe for a great summer movie!