(The 24th Annual Slamdance Film Festival ran January 19-25 in Park City, UT. Hammer to Nail has you covered and guarantees more coverage than any other site. Watch us work it!)
Bernard (Jim Rash) and Huey (David Koechner) are estranged old friends (played in flashbacks by Jay Renshaw and Jake O’Connor, respectively) who are fatefully reunited. Okay, maybe it is not exactly fate, as Huey forcibly reappears in Bernard’s life – as we quickly learn, Huey has never been one for finesse or subtlety, he is like a bull in the china shop when comes to relationships.
Co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival, Dan Mirvish’s Bernard and Huey functions as an examination of how Bernard and Huey relate to each other and the women they encounter. Mirvish’s use of flashbacks confirm that the two men have not matured all that much since their younger years. Both of them still see women as sexual objects; conquests to prove their manhood. They just have drastically different ways of associating with women.
What fascinates me most about cinema, and art in general, is how our personal histories and ideologies inform our viewing experience. The world premiere of Bernard and Huey fortuitously occurred on the crest of the #MeToo movement, which is likely to lead us to observe Bernard and Huey’s treatments of women with far greater scrutiny. Mirvish most likely had a totally different goal for Bernard and Huey, but I suspect he will not object to the life it will take on in this current environment.
For most of us, Bernard will be the more acceptable of the two men, until he makes the decision to date Zelda (Mae Whitman), who is young enough to be his daughter. We reluctantly “get” why he initially makes this decision, because he hopes to have more control and respect from his significant other. Bernard probably believes that a significantly younger woman will make him feel more like a man. He also realizes that he can use his position in book publishing to keep the young and burgeoning graphic novelist interested in him. Or, is she using him? This is where our present filters kick in. Six months ago, some of us would have still found this relationship to be mutually beneficial. In the wake of #MeToo, it is obvious that Bernard is taking advantage of having the upper hand in this relationship. Bernard knows he can’t actually help Zelda get published, but the possibility of advancing her career keeps Zelda hooked. Bernard is like a film producer or director who sleeps with a young starlet under the pretense of helping advance her career, when in reality he only wants in her knickers.
On the other hand, Huey is a jerk. There are absolutely no excuses for his behavior, especially in this day and age. He is very much of an older generation, when men were men and women were not. Huey uses his money and confidence to get what he wants. What seems to make matters worse is the revolving door of women who fall for his sleaziness. Huey also has a monstrously intimidating presence. Like Harvey Weinstein blocking a doorway while jacking off into a potted plant, there is no escaping this guy. A revolting cock, Huey gives men of the 21st century a bad name.
While Bernard and Huey manipulate and use women in different ways, they both represent the type of men that the #MeToo movement are bravely combatting. It is not without irony that Bernard and Huey is based on characters that originally appeared in Jules Feiffer’s Village Voice comic strip in 1957. Bernard and Huey were just typical men back then. Feiffer penned the Bernard and Huey screenplay in the mid-1980s, when Bernard and Huey’s behavior was still widely accepted as the norm. Now, over thirty years later, society is final maturing and opening their minds, recognizing that middle-aged white men are by no means superior to anyone else. If anything, they are inferior.
Don Simpson (@thatdonsimpson)
(**Editors note: Hammer to Nail Editor in Chief Don R. Lewis contributed to the crowdfunding campaign for Bernard and Huey.)