Running Time: 104 minutes
Starring: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey
Directed By: Richard Linklater
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
In small-town Texas, a funeral director befriends a wealthy widow to funny and ultimately murderous results.
"It's in my top two movies of all time with the word Bernie in the title. I'm not going to say what the other one is, but let’s just say it doesn’t take place during the week." - Andy Samberg
Jack Black is singing in this movie? That is an entirely original and unique happenstance. Bernie is the story of a small-town in Texas (Carthage). Bernie Tiede is a mild mannered funeral director who is adored by the populace. After the passing of a one, Mr. Nugent, Bernie befriends his widow (Marjorie.)
I hate to say this, but the acting in this is superb. Jack Black plays Bernie Tiede perfectly. With his pants hitched up and his small moustache perfectly coiffed, Black leads the viewer on tale that you will have to see to believe. Tiede is socially awkward with young people and yet at ease with the grieving. He sings beautifully in front of hundreds of strangers, and yet is embarrassed by sex talk. I usually can take Black in only small doses but this might be his finest performance to date. Tiede was awkwardly popular and Black makes the viewer understand that. Mrs. Nugent is also played very well by Shirley MacLaine. While it wasn’t a hard role, Maclaine hits all the right notes to get under the viewers skin. Never smiling, and always mad, she is the darkness to Tiede’s light. Matthew McConaughey has a small role as Prosecutor Danny Buck, which I also quite enjoyed.
Watching Bernie and Mrs. Nugent interact can be funny and it can be cringe worthy. And that is what I liked most about this film. It takes a little bit of being uncomfortable to get this story across and the unanswered questions only add to its intrigue. Was Bernie a gold digger? Were the two of them sleeping together? Can anyone possibly be this nice? Was the end of this story predestined? The more the film goes on, the more you will like Bernie and the more you will hate Mrs. Nugent. Everyman has a tipping point though, and Bernie is no different. I personally would have gone with the Throw Mama from the Train route, but Bernie takes a different approach. An inexplicable and suddenly violent act will eventually cause the town of Carthage to rally behind a man that lost his cool. Except to add to the insanity which is this tale, it takes almost a year for anyone to realize a crime has even been committed. The story ends the way it starts, bizarrely. In conclusion, I liked this film for its reliance on people’s faith. It makes you wonder about when someone does so much good with their life, can they be forgiven for one act of depravity? This film can be cleverly funny, and decidedly dark. The first half is certainly better than the second as getting to know Bernie is the best part. The film is very slow at times, but ultimately Black’s acting and the crazy story won me over.
Director Richard Linklater seems to get the most out of Jack Black (see School of Rock) and that is not the easiest of things to do. The towns testimonials integrated with fictional reenactments of the key players involved, was a stroke of genius. It keeps the viewer emotionally invested in a film that could easily have been a snooze fest. This is a unique tale of humanity at its finest and at its worst, which was great to watch.
I recommend this film, especially to people who enjoy odd storylines.
P.S. Do not fall asleep while this DVD is in the player. The title screen song on a loop will haunt your dreams for eternity.
T Factor + If you like Jack Black as an actor then this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you do not like slower dramas/Indie films then this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Safety Not Guaranteed, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.