Weekend at Bernie's
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Cast: Jonathan Silverman, Andrew McCarthy, Terry Kiser
Released: July 5, 1989
Whenever I think of this movie, I think of it as Rachel Green's favorite movie. Remember that episode of Friends where Monica and Rachel are competing against Joey and Chandler where they have to answer a bunch of trivia questions about each other and if Joey and Chandler win (spoiler, they do) they get to switch apartments with the girls and if the girls win, they get....something. It doesn't matter since they lost. Anyway, Ross is asking all the questions and one of them is something along the lines of, "According to Rachel, what is her favorite movie?" They get the answer right, which is Dangerous Liaisons. Then there's a follow-up question where Ross ask, "What is Rachel's actual favorite movie" and Joey quickly replies, "Weekend at Bernie's", which is also correct. That's hilarious. I can see Rachel covering that up by pretending her favorite movie is a little more cultured.
Anyway, can you believe I've never seen this movie until now? Yep, it has always eluded me. But when I saw it was on Amazon Prime, I decided to finally check it out. Of course, I knew the basic premise: there's a dead guy two guys are passing off as being alive. I honestly don't know how all these people can be so stupid and think this man is alive...but, hey, we'll just have to suspend our disbelief with this one.
Jonathan Silverman (remember him on The Single Guy? That show that was on between Friends and Seinfeld until it got replaced by another show that would eventually get replaced by another show because people only cared about Friends and Seinfeld and not the "filler" shows that were between them) and Andrew McCarthy are Richard and Larry, two twenty-somethings working in corporate NYC. Richard is the more serious of the two, who wants to make sure the work gets done and do the right thing and Larry just wants to party.
Labor Day weekend is right around the corner and it is established that there's a major heat wave. As the weatherman on the radio says, "The Big Apple becomes the Baked Apple" and the weather will be "hot, humid, hazy, and horrible." Yeah, that does sound horrible! I would much rather be cold than hot because it's easier to warm up by throwing on a jacket or sweater. When you're boiling hot, it's very hard to cool down. Now, I'm not talking about negative degrees; I don't like being THAT cold...I just don't mind a chilly, rainy day. I would much rather have that than temps in the high 90s and above. No, thank you!
So Richard and Larry go into the insurance corporation office where they work. As soon as they get there, Larry (remember, he's the fun one) wants to go to the beach, but Richard (remember, he's the serious one) tells him no. They end up "compromising" and go to the rooftop of Larry's (I'm guessing it was his) apartment building where they have set up a kiddie pool. Even as a small child, I remember kiddie pools being lame. They have printed out pages of boring insurance numbers from the office and have brought those with them. These papers have those perforated edges that you tear off on each side of the paper...haha, remember those kinds of printers? That's how old this movie is. It's so hot that the tar on the rooftop is melting and Larry gets his shoes stuck in them as he stands up to sit in the kiddie pool.
While Larry is in the kiddie pool bitching about how hot it is and how much he hates his life, Richard is looking at the papers and gets excited, saying he's "got the $2 million." He tells Larry which page and line to look at, but Larry does't see what Richard sees. As he's flipping through the pages, the tar is just getting everywhere on the papers so they have this sticky black substance on them.
Since Larry has no idea what Richard is seeing, Richard has to explain to him (and us) that on one life insurance policy claim, there was more than one check issued. There were four, in fact: one in December of '87, one in April '88, and two more in June. According to their records, this particular person died four times. Larry says, "Somebody screwed up. It wasn't us, was it?" Richard assures him that it was not them. He tells them they're actually the heroes because they just "uncovered a $2 million error" and that they're "going up the corporate ladder."
Larry realizes that this is a good thing and says he'll tell their boss first thing in the morning, but Richard wants to tell him. Finally, they agree that they'll both tell him first thing in the morning and they give each other a high five and I thought for sure their hands were going to get stuck since Larry had tar all over his hands, but that doesn't happen. (We have death and mayhem to get to!)
So this movie has a romantic subplot which I don't know if it really needed. I guess a few funny moments come from it, but it really wasn't necessary to the plot. Richard has a crush on a girl named Gwen, who's worked in his office as a summer intern and will be gone in a week before she goes back to school. (BTW, I looked up the actress, Catherine Mary Stewart, and she was almost 30 when she filmed this...but to give her credit, she does look young, but not quite college young!) When Richard and Larry go into their building the next morning, they see Gwen in front of them (with a bunch of other people) and Larry is (loudly) telling Richard he should ask her out and even though there are other people around, I'm pretty sure she can hear them. After much badgering from Larry, Richard finally decides to talk to her and he stops by her desk to say, "My aunt is very sick" and she just looks very confused. He just runs off after that. Hey, at least he finally said something to her!
Larry and Richard go to their boss's office, the titular Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser), to tell them about what they've found, but he's not interested in hearing what they have to say at the moment because it's too early and he tells them to come back "after lunch, quite a bit after lunch." When they do come back after lunch, on their way up to their boss's office, they run into Gwen and she tells Richard that she hopes his aunt feels better. This gives Richard the opportunity to talk to her and later we learn that he scored a date with her. Since we never see this conversation on screen, we never do learn if he told Gwen that he doesn't have a sick aunt, but I'm guessing he didn't.
When Mr. Lomax's secretary calls them in to to talk to their boss, Richard tells him they have been "reprogramming the accounts on the new computer system" and they found something he should know about. After they tell him about what they found, he asks them if they are sure these figures are accurate and they reply with, "Yes, sir" and "Yes, Mr. Lomax." Their boss tells them to call him Bernie since his father is Mr. Lomax and we get a funny scene where Larry takes it too far when he calls him just "Bern" and his boss says, "E. Bern-ie." Haha!
Since Labor Day weekend is right around the corner, Bernie invites them to his beach house on the Hamptons to which they agree. He tells the two guys that he'll have his secretary send them the ferry schedule since that's the only way to get there. We get this funny moment where Richard randomly tells him he's never been on a boat before except for the one time when he was on the Staten Island ferry with his parents and is about to launch into some story about this experience, but Bernie just interrupts him and says, "Whatever, whatever." He tells them to come Friday night and he'll drive him back to the city himself on Monday.
Of course Richard and Larry are too excited about the upcoming trip (not to mention a little stupid and naive) that little do they know that Bernie is planning on having them whacked. We get an amusing scene transition where Larry tells Richard how, "the man absolutely loves us" after they are given a sincere thanks from Bernie to Bernie at a restaurant telling his mobster friends they need to kill two of his young employees. Bernie has a whole plan worked out where he's going to make it look like a murder-suicide job. He says he'll write the note, plant the money, and they (Larry and Richard) can take the rap and he won't have to change the books.
His mobster friends are Vito and Paulie (yep, pretty sure these are also character names from The Sopranos!) and they're also joined by Tina, who is Vito's woman. However, Bernie and Tina have a little something going on on the side, but they're not keeping it very secret because Tina keeps making eyes at Bernie and is playing footsie with him and as soon as Bernie leaves, Tina immediately runs after him. Vito knows there's something going on between them and once he and Paulie are the only ones remaining at the table, he tells Paulie to "forget the accident with the two guys." He wants him to take out Bernie for messing with Tina. Tina, btw, is just this stereotypical mobster girlfriend with the tight clothes and gaudy jewelry and crazy hair and she has this Noo Joisey accent where she calls Bernie "Boy-nee". OMG, it cracked me up the way she pronounced his name. "Boy-nee, Boy-nee!"
Richard has his date with Gwen. They had dinner at a little dive (which we don't see) and as they're walking the busy and loud streets of New York, trying to have a conversation, she tells him she would invite him back to her apartment, but she has five roommates (six girls living in one apartment (and you know it's tiny!)! Can you imagine? That sounds like absolute hell!) and they're all doing their hair. She asks him if he has his own place and he says he does and she suggests they go there. We, the audience, know that Richard, in fact, does NOT have his own place. He lives with his parents (obviously a native New Yorker if his parents live in the city!) I actually thought he was going to take her to Larry's apartment because he does live on his own (albeit in a very small apartment which is in a bad neighborhood) and Larry did offer him his apartment, but he told him no. He takes her back to the apartment he shares with his parents and she's impressed that she can afford an apartment that size and is confused as to why he keeps whispering and tiptoeing around. He tells her the walls are really thin and he doesn't want to wake the neighbors and the people who live below him are light sleepers.
He then proceeds to tell her a huge lie (even bigger than telling her he has his own place) when she asks how he can afford a place like this and he tells her he doesn't like to talk about his financial success, but that his parents were rather well off, implying that they died. When he tells her they died in a train accident, she says she always thought trains were safer than planes and he says that a plane fell on the train. Now, if I were this girl, I would have a lot of questions. For one thing, I would be asking when this happened. Because if this had happened sometime in the last decade, I feel like you would remember an event like a plane crashing into a train! That seems like a once in a lifetime catastrophe that you would remember. But she doesn't even ask about it. Instead she feels sorry for him and they start making out. Of course, at that moment, his dad walks out of his room and into the kitchen to get something from the fridge and he and Gwen are just sort of watching him. When she whispers to him that there's a man standing in his kitchen, in a hushed tone, Richard replies that that's his butler and if they're keep quiet, he'll just ignore them and go back to bed. Of course we all know he's hoping his dad won't notice him with a girl on the couch in the living room, but of course he does and says, "Sorry, I didn't realize you had company." Richard snaps his fingers and says, "That's all right, Monroe" and asks him to lay out his navy blue suit for tomorrow. His dad replies, "How about if I lay you out" and once he goes back to his room, Gwen asks Richard, "You let your butler talk to you like that?" It's at that moment she realizes that was his dad and Richard was lying to her, so she gets up and leaves. Yeah, Richard really blew that one!
As soon as Bernie enters his ugly beach house, the phone is ringing and he runs into his office to get it. It's Paulie, the guy who's supposed to kill Richard and Larry. Bernie tells him he's early, that they're coming on the six o'clock ferry, and he still needs to plant the note. Paulie asks him where his house is and Bernie tells him not to kill them while while he's around and Paulie reminds them they're on a phone which made me laugh. Why would you say something like that over the phone? Good Lord! It's probably not a spoiler when I say that this will come back to haunt him (although he will be dead at this point, so kind of a moot point anyway since you can't send a dead guy to jail). Bernie tells him he he just needs to be back in New York with an alibi.
He has just finished typing the confession/ suicide letter and puts it in a suitcase full of money when he turns around and Paulie is there. He tells him he didn't hear him and Paulie says he's good at that. When Bernie leans over to get a cigarette that Paulie asks for, Paulie shoots him in the butt with heroin. At least, I think it's heroin. I'm not quite sure what it was, but I looked it up on the oh so reliable Wikipedia and that's what they say it was, so we'll go with that. I don't really know that much about heroin...I know taking a lot of it is really, really bad, but would it really kill you that fast? To be honest, I thought he shot him up with something that would just paralyze him and he was actually alive the whole time; he just couldn't move or speak and I was just amazed that this whole time I thought Bernie was actually dead and maybe this was a twist in the movie - but, oh no, he's really dead. He's pretty much a goner in the first thirty seconds he was injected with the heroin (or lethal dose of whatever it was).
To be honest, when we first learn that Bernie has a hit out on his two young employees, I thought Richard and Larry were going to be the ones to kill him....accidentally, of course. But I can see why the movie didn't want their two protagonists be murderers (even if it was totally accidental or in self defense). They also make Bernie a character where you really don't care if he dies. He doesn't have a family, all he cares about is money and he's really quite rude to everyone. We see an earlier scene of him talking on the phone with the Maserati people telling them he wants a black one and they better paint one black if they don't have a black car to offer him. We also see him with other women, so he's not faithful. Oh, and let's not forget that Bernie is planning on having two of his young employees murdered! All in all, Bernie is kind of a rich, smug jackass.
When Richard and Larry arrive at the house, they just let themselves in since they're guests (fair enough) and the house is unlocked. We'll soon see pretty much anyone lets themselves in at any time and helps themselves to whatever. They find Bernie sitting at his desk and thinks he's sleeping. Larry slaps him on his cheek, then on top of his head and Richard tells him "Don't slap him! That's your boss!" You think they would be concerned that two slaps have not even stirred Bernie, but they think they just need to move him to the couch to "get the blood circulating". They do just that and Bernie is as limp as can be. You think they would realize by now that he's dead, but no.
While Larry is making him coffee to help "wake" him up (hell, they could throw hot coffee in his face and he still wouldn't wake up!), Richard finds a syringe and a baggie of cocaine in the pocket of Bernie's windbreaker. He alerts this to Larry who says he didn't know that Bernie was in the "drug scene" and "if he's not careful, he's going to wake up one morning dead." While he's saying this, Richard is holding his sunglasses up to Larry's nose, realize he's not getting any breath residue on them and feels his pulse and it's at that moment he realizes Bernie is dead and tells Larry. They both immedietly think it's suicide (fair enough; the way his body is, there's no evidence of trauma) and Larry says he can't believe he didn't wait until Monday to kill himself, which, I'm ashamed to admit this (well, not really), but that made me laugh. Also, I wonder if he meant Tuesday since it was Labor Day weekend.
Naturally, Richard's first instinct is to call the police, but then he stops when he realizes he doesn't know what he's going to tell them and that they might think they had something to do with it. I mean, they did have access to Bernie's house and they were the last ones to see him as far as the police are concerned and yeah, it doesn't look too good for them so I can see why he would be concerned about that.
Remember when I said that people just let themselves into Bernie's house? Well, a bunch of people start arriving because "it's party time." And I mean a lot of people arriving; the house if just flooded with random people who just show up. Well, I guess they're not random to Bernie because it seems like everyone in the Hamptons knows who he is. I guess he's just popular because he's so rich and generously lets anybody into his house. People are helping themselves to drinks at the bar, they're getting into his pool, his house is pretty much much a free for all.
Nobody has a clue that Bernie is dead and Richard and Larry are just watching all of this in disbelief. Bernie is still propped on the couch and his arms have been posed so they're splayed out on top of the couch. People are coming up to him to say hello and we see several different people have one-sided (of course!) conversations with him. Since Bernie has recently purchased a new car, I guess he is selling his Porsche and one guy comes up to him to ask if he's had a chance to think about his offer for the Porsche. A woman sits right next to him and tells him she hears he's got something for her and she fishes the drugs out of his pocket. Bernie's person trainer comes by to massage his shoulders and tells him he needs to loosen up.
Once again, Richard decides he should call the police. He is aghast that nobody realizes he is dead. But before he can call them, Larry hangs up the phone. He thinks they can just keep up the charade that Bernie is alive and still have their great weekend in the Hamptons. Richard is totally against this idea, but once he sees Gwen enter the house, he changes his mind. Apparently, Gwen's parents also own a place in the Hamptons and that's why she's there. I'm not sure why Richard is attempting to start something with her again because she's going back to school in a week. Now I don't remember if they told us where she attended college, but even if she did go to school in the city, Richard told her that both his parents were dead when she found out that was clearly a lie. I think this 'ship has sailed!
But apparently not. They end up at a lighthouse (where the light blinds Richard and he ends up falling down the steps.) They end up on the beach and start making out. While this is happening, Richard looks up and sees that Bernie's corpse has washed up on the beach and is literally just feet away from them! (Don't ask how Bernie ended up there...they had many faux pas with Bernie's dead body). It's quite morbid, but it made me laugh. Richard manages to convince her they need to stop and is able to get her away from the beach without her seeing (or smelling, apparently) Bernie. So I guess Gwen forgave him for lying to her about his parents!
While Tina was having her "fun" with Bernie, Paulie was watching the whole thing from outside. (The window shades were conveniently left wide open and he was there to check up on Tina for Vito). So Paulie thinks Bernie is still alive and keeps trying to "kill" him, but whatever he does never seems to work as far as he's concerned.
One of the stupidest (and by that, I mean one of the funniest) scenes is when Richard and Larry take
There's another time when Richard is about to call the cops once and for all, but he accidentally activates the old phone messages and this is when he and Larry hear the conversation he had with Paulie about killing them. They find the money and note that Bernie had planted. They still think they are in danger and Paulie thinks Bernie is still alive and is still trying to get him out of the picture and it's all one big mess. Meanwhile, Gwen has been trying to find a moment where she can talk to Bernie so she can thank him for giving her the job or something and every time she tries to do this, Larry and Richard make up some excuse as to why he can't talk. Finally, Richard confesses and tells her that he's dead but she doesn't believe him because he told her his parents died and that was clearly a lie.
This movie is so stupid and not very realistic. How can a body that's been in the water and sun for the past two days not even have a hint of a foul aroma? Nobody ever acts like they're smelling anything bad when they're in the vicinity of Bernie's corpse. You know that would reek! I will say, that I did laugh quite a few times just for how stupid and ridiculous it was. I will not be watching the sequel because I hear it's awful....like even more awful than this one. Not that I'm surprised by that.