Review by Jacquelin Hipes
Sometimes a film comes along with such spectacularly bad timing it’s difficult to summon any reaction beyond astonishment. Dan Mirvish’s Bernard and Huey, about two former college roommates clinging onto their adolescent selfishness and misogyny well into middle age, is that kind of movie. After 25 years apart, Huey (David Koechner) shows up at Bernard’s (Jim Rash) door looking for a place to crash. He was escorted back to New York City by Zelda (Mae Whitman), his adult daughter whom he abandoned fifteen years ago, at the behest of her mother for reasons that remain unclear. Huey is an awful person. He treats women like disposable amusements, boasting an attitude better suited to the offices of Sterling Cooper than the New York of his youth or adulthood.
For his part Bernard has always rebelled against the worst of his friend’s proclivities. He doesn’t keep a not-so-little black book of his conquests nor does he boast to hookers of never “paying for it in my entire life,” but he does have a tendency to ramble about his ex-wife after sex with his current girlfriend. Huey’s reappearance in his life causes quite the disruption: he’s loud and drinks heavily, plus he gives out Bernard’s phone number as a way for one night stands to reach him. Most importantly, it brings Bernard and Zelda into one another’s orbit.
Bernard works in publishing (“historical non-fiction”), while Zelda has struggled to get her hyper-feminist and explicit illustrations published as a graphic novel. Huey insists that his friend look over her work and see what strings he can pull; Bernard winds up sleeping with Zelda instead. This particularly bad decision is only one of a multitude, large and small, that cascade out of Huey and Bernard’s re-acquaintance. Cheating, revenge sex, and a general disdain towards the women in their lives—save what they have to offer sexually—run rampant.
But it isn’t merely a focus on two general off-putting men that makes Bernard and Huey such a poorly thought-out film. It is the fact that their exploits are neither funny nor insightful; they offer no catharsis to the viewer nor do they serve as a teachable moment for either of the men indulging them. Relatively speaking, there are no repercussions for how Huey treats his ex-wife and daughter. Bernard gets off shockingly easy for his extended dalliance with Zelda. Both men conduct themselves abominably and by the end of the movie everyone appears to have collectively decided, with little in the way of apologies or amended behavior, that it’s acceptable.
Practically all of the characters are unsympathetic. If that was the main goal of Feiffer’s screenplay then the actors fulfilled it admirably. Bernard and Huey does not offer any insight into the sometimes imbalanced, toxic, or simply screwball relationships men and women have with one another. It also doesn’t entertain. By the end one is left wondering what the point of it even is, other than to celebrate the cavalier misogyny of its two title characters. If that’s what you’re looking for just scroll through a comment section—any comment section—on the internet instead. At least that’s free.
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