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Without You I'm Nothing

MGM // R // August 23, 2005
List Price: $14.94 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Weinberg | posted September 7, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Movie

Sandra Bernhard is one weird woman. I don't mean that as a slight towards the lady, nor do I think she'd argue the adjective with me. "Weird" is not nearly always a bad thing, so if you're down with arcane musical numbers, offbeat "performance art" monologuing, and some rather dry and acidic stand-up material, you should certainly consider adding Without You I'm Nothing to your rental list.

Probably best-known to movie junkies as the hilariously over-the-top Hudson Hawk villainess Minerva Mayflower, Ms. Bernard has made a long and colorful career out of being ... not your average, run-of-the-mill comedienne / character actress. With her unique looks and decidedly brazen demeanor, Sandra's spent the last few decades popping up in a rather eclectic collection of movies, TV shows, and stage productions. Some people can't stand the gal; me, I dig the Bernhard just fine.

The talented-yet-frequently abrasive Ms. Bernhard got a chance to shine in her very own concert film back in 1990. Along with collaborator John Boskovich, Sandra Bernhard delivered Without You I'm Nothing, an appropriately weird combination of musical numbers, "in character" monologues, and frequently bizarre comedy material. It's certainly not for everyone, and those expecting a Chris Rock-style stand-up performance may find themselves scratching their heads in confusion before the thirty-minute mark.

Oddly enough, the audience that's gathered for Ms. Bernhard's performance seems genuinely disinterested (or outright disdainful) towards the performer. I'm not sure if this was meant as one of the more esoteric gags, but the gimmick wears off quickly, and without some sort of positive response from her audience, Bernhard seems a little like a train with no passengers. Her material's always compelling, but there's no "oomph" that comes from a live audience.

Without You I'm Nothing wanders from stage material to musical number to faux-interview segment with fictitious members of Bernhard's "posse," and while I found very little of the material to be "LOL funny," I certainly wasn't bored by Ms. Bernhard's presence. She's a weird and offbeat performer who's made accessible by the simple fact that she knows she's weird and offbeat. It's not a gimmick or a role or an affectation; Sandra Bernhard is a strange, funny, self-effacing, and acerbically insightful observer of the human condition -- and frankly I wish she'd start working a little more frequently. (I haven't seen her onscreen since 1998's Wrongfully Accused!)

The DVD

Video: The film is presented in a Widescreen (1.85:1) Anamorphic aspect ratio; picture quality is suitably strong for a low-budget little concert flick. It's not the sharpest transfer in the world, but you'll have no problem enjoying the show.

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, which delivers the non-stop chatter & tunes in fine form. Optional subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and French.

Extras: The original Without You I'm Nothing theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts

I knew she was funny and kinda weird. I knew she was a brave and ballsy performer and a clever satirist and all that jazz ... but I never knew Sandy B. had such a strong set of pipes! She's certainly not mainstream and she's absolutely what you'd call an "acquired taste" - but I think the world of entertainment can always use a few angry, gifted oddballs like Sandra Bernhard.

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