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Finally got to see this amazing film over the weekend. I wasn't sure
what to expect, not a huge fan of MacLaine and even less of
McConaughey, but wow! From the opening scene to the closing credits,
this film flat-out delivers.
From the quirky cast of townspeople - which in and of themselves are completely worth the price of admission - to the two co-stars and the Incredible Mr Black, this film was perfection.
Those of you who love the traditional jack Black, there is plenty of musical comedy to keep you happy, no worries there. His renditions of classic gospel songs equals anything he has done to date! MAJOR kudos to the casting team on this one, you nailed it! One complaint - how did McConaughey get first billing on the "BERNIE" page on IMDb?? Really IMDb, really?? SEE THIS FILM!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jack Black will get award buzz, but think Golden Globe not Oscar. Here
he plays a small town assistant funeral director in the style of Rod
Steiger's Mr. Joyboy in "The Loved One".
Colorful characters talk directly to the camera in pseudo documentary style. It works. Shirley Maclane deserves credit for being bad and looking worse on the screen.
Jack Black doing "The Music Man" was a fun. The movie is a tad long and drags a bit during the courtroom scene. The photos and clips during the end credits are worth staying for. It's a small movie that is worth seeing.
A dark comedy, "Bernie" is a mix of true crime and documentary. It's
based on a true story and weaves a tale of a character both sympathetic
and guilty, and supporting characters who are stubborn and
compassionate. Grab your cowboy hats, belt buckles, and King James
Bible because we are off to Carthage, Texas for a story about funerals,
murder and homosexuality.
Bernie (Jack Black) is an odd sort of fellow. He's a mortician who sends off the deceased from small town Texas to Heaven in style. Little old ladies love him; he goes to church, donates his time and money and is liked by everybody. He's quiet, but sings sweetly, and appears to be happy just being himself. Larger-than-life comedians take note of Black's subdued, character-enlightening and hilarious performance.
Bernie meets wealthy widow Marjorie (Shirley MacLaine) and like with all little old ladies, he wants to make sure that she's properly cared for during this tough time. The difference is that this time she's trying to keep distance from his flirtations rather than the other way around. She's not nice, and the other residents are pretty sure there is only word that suitably describes her. She has one son and four grandkids; some of whom have attempted to sue her, and the others have actually sued her.
Bernie and Marjorie have a need for each other; money, companionship, and who knows what else. Their relationship is simultaneously unclear and creepy. This is where the plot develops. Bernie is up to something and the townsfolk are either going to stand by their man or paint him as a criminal (or homosexual, because in Carthage, Texas they're pretty much one in the same). Bernie's main adversary is District Attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey). He's sure that Bernie is gay and he's also sure that Bernie is up to no good and will pay for whatever crime he has committed. McConaughey was extremely funny and was able to play into his Texas background but was completely different from anything he has done before. There's something special about an actor who can follow up the success of "Magic Mike" (2012) with something like this.
Linklater has followed this true story to the letter, even using real town residents to introduce us to the character of Bernie. His genius comes through in the writing. The dialogue is unbelievably funny and he uses people's need to laugh rather than their commitment to empathy to get us to connect to this film. Considering how funny and enjoyable the rest of "Bernie" was, the ending seemed out of place. Upon further reflection, it was exactly the kind of jolt back to reality that was needed.
Director Richard Linklater is known for his small movies and the quirky
characters within them, as well as the realistic portraits he captures.
In Bernie, Mr. Linklater captures the essence of a small Texas town and
the true crime story of the bigger-than-life character loved by all.
Mr. Linklater perfectly casts Jack Black (with whom he had done School of Rock) as the community's favorite citizen Bernie, Shirley MacLaine as the rich, bitter widow with whom Bernie becomes entwined, and Michael McConaughy (another Linklater alum, on the cusp of his career makeover) as the district attorney who must prosecute Bernie despite public opinion that Bernie should go free. All three stars give wonderful performances most of all Mr. Black who restrains himself from his usual attention-grabbing antics and gives a well-controlled performance, including several songs that were quite unexpected.
This beautiful character study has its moments of comedy, but it is the finely detailed performances that make it something special.
Can I just say, I freaking love indies!! This is definitely a favorite! It's so funny and interesting and brilliant. I mean the fact that it is based on a true story, makes it even more real. I just love how they brought it too screen. It was very documentary like and funny, interesting and sentimental kind of. It is a dark comedy, so if you don't like that stuff, don't watch it. I think this is was Jack Black's best performance ever. I loved his character, it was very real and connecting. Also this was probably McConaughey's best as well. I highly recommend watching this, (yes it's on Netflix) it has great acting, great actors great everything. Just watch it. Rate: 10/10 Rated: PG-13 Film Directed by Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater - one of the most enigmatic directors working today,
one who never makes two similar films, and one of the few whose style
and themes I can never pinpoint - completely blurs the line between
documentary, mockumentary and dramatization with Bernie, s gem that
won't make any headlines but may well go down in history as one of the
best films of its year. Jack Black - in what is surely his finest
dramatic performance so far - is fantastic as mortician and convicted
murderer Bernie Tiede. Black completely immerses himself into the role,
and completely immerses the viewer into the film; for the first time he
doesn't play himself (as he did in films like School of Rock and King
Kong), but a character who feels real and very lovable, and it's hard
not to root for Tiede even after we see what he's capable of.
Linklater seamlessly merged dramatized and highly stylized scenes (the opening scene in particular is pure cinematic gold) with mockumentary style 'talking heads' segments and with actual interviews with people who knew the real Bernie; the juxtaposition is so perfect that, if I didn't recognize Matthew Mcconaughey, I might have mistaken him for one of the townspeople. Linklater takes notes from Errol Morris' and Harmony Korine's portrayal of small town quirkiness, but he does so with much more love and creates something much more watchable; Bernie works as a black comedic drama with a lot of soul and a lot of entertainment value as much as it works as a semi-documentary. While it left some issues unexplored - I would have liked to see more of Shirley MacLaine's character, as well as Bernie's relationship with the townspeople, which we get mainly through the interview segments - it's a great success in that it leaves you wanting more. Don't miss it.
Im not sure if this was a comedy, a drama, a dramady or a tragedy, but it was engaging throughout regardless. What makes it so hard to peg down is that its based on a true story, but maybe its OK if it cant be quite pegged down. Regardless, the performances of its starring cast including Shirley Mcclain and Matthew Mcconaughey, but especially Jack Black were absolutely outstanding. If for no other reason, this film was worth watching, maybe a few times, just to truly capture the depth of the performances put forth here. Oddly, this isn't a film that ever got too much buzz because of its modest budget and minimal advertising, but personally I believe it deserves another look by many who may not even know it exists. Just because it defies a typical categorization doesn't mean it doesn't excel in any number of them. But please don't get me wrong, it is surely weird as hell!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I only have one question. Why didn't Jack Black get an Oscar? Black's
performance was spot-on and he's never been better. His immersion in
his character was as close to Billy Bob Thorton in Slingblade as I've
ever seen. I don't impress easy, but Jack was Bernie. His singing and
dancing, walk, talk, mannerisms, and speech patterns are a tribute to
his ability to posses the role.
If Jack never does another movie, he's solid gold forever with this movie. The supporting cast from Shirley McClaine to Matthew Mcconaughey and all the townspeople were superb, direction was unobtrusive, editing was natural, and the styling was perfection.
A tip of my hat to everyone connected to this golden masterpiece, and Jack Black's star is shining in the heavens.
Free Bernie! and more great scripts for Jack Black.
Bernie is a really fun and enjoyable dark comedy, starring Jack Black
and Shirley MacLaine. This is actually the true story of what happened
between a purely good man and a purely evil woman.
Jack Black plays Bernie Tiede, an assistant undertaker in the small town of Carthage, Texas. He is loved by everybody for his pure-hearted character, his sympathy for every person he comes across and his willingness to help everyone who needs it in any way, shape or form. He's just such a good guy, you almost wouldn't believe it if not for the fact that this character is based on an actual person.
And then there's Marjorie Nugent, played by Shirley MacLaine. She is his polar opposite, as hated as Bernie is loved. She is the widow of some rich oil baron, and she is just the most mean and spiteful woman you could ever fear to meet. Everyone in town absolutely hates her guts, and there's no one who would be sorry to see her go...
Then comes the day when these two people meet and all due to Bernie's good nature form an unlikely friendship. Until about two years later when Marjorie's true personality rears its ugly head and even Bernie can't stand her abuse any longer, when he is reduced to her personal slave and whipping boy. And what no one believed possible, happens... He kills her. (don't worry, that's not a spoiler, that's the story line.) What follows is the strange lengths Bernie attempts to go to, in order to cover up his crime.
What makes this film work so well is mostly the subtle humour of it. Director Richard Linklater thankfully didn't choose to make this into the hysterical, caricature of a comedy it easily could have been. Something that really adds to the authenticity of the film is the use of actual Carthage townsfolk, providing commentary on the events in documentary-like interview scenes. This really is a perfect move on the director's part, because it makes the 'acting' completely real and spontaneous.
I really like Jack Black, but in this case, I'm somewhat glad he left his crazy mannerisms and facial expressions at the door, in order to just play this character true-to-form. He actually acts, rather than just playing another silly, typical "Jack Black character".
I always love watching Shirley MacLaine in a mean and vile role such as this one, and in 'Bernie', she plays it to a T once again. Imagine her character in 'Steel Magnolia's' and then multiply it by ten. That's what you get here and it's an absolute joy to watch.
Matthew McConaughey plays the county sheriff, dead-set on burning Bernie for his crime. I'm usually not too fond of him, but his role in 'Bernie' is pretty funny and he plays it well. He seems to be the only person in town who thinks it's bad what happened to Marjorie. That's another really funny aspect to this story the fact that everybody involved just loves Bernie so much and really hates Marjorie to the bone, that they all seem to take his side in the matter. You might feel like I'm just throwing spoilers at you here, but pretty much the whole story is told in hindsight and flashbacks, so there are no real secrets or mysteries unveiled. Then what's the point of watching, you might ask, if I already know everything that's going to happen from the get-go? The point is the enjoyment you'll get from watching these events unfold.
The actors are all really well cast, and they play their roles with a certain flair that makes them instantly likable. The dialogue is clever and witty, and like I mentioned earlier, the combination of event re-enactment and documentary-like interviews, is a winning ticket and 'Bernie's' major selling point. The story is well constructed, as is the chronology of how it unfolds. Basically, it's just very well-made, and it definitely would have deserved a little more credit. But then again, this film also kind of has a "small budget/small audience" feel to it, so that might explain why it practically went unnoticed at the box office. It's just a shame that charming little comedies like 'Bernie' always get overlooked when stuff like 'The Hangover' and the like get multi-million dollar appraisal. All I can hope for is that 'Bernie' gathers its own DVD-fan base, because it's certainly worth it.
Watch this film if you're in the mood a darkly hilarious comedy that has its heart in the right place. Oh, and stick around for the credits, where you can see pictures of the actual Bernie and Marjorie, and footage of Bernie and Jack Black talking, which is a fun addition.
All in all, a highly recommended film!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
East Texas is an interesting part of the country, and with its rolling
hills and old-growth pine forests unique among the various regions of
the state. When you travel along highway 59 north from Houston, as I
have done many times, you pass right through Carthage. I never gave
much thought to this fairly ordinary East Texas town, but something
very interesting was going on there in 1996.
Jack Black is just ideal as Bernie Tiede, chubby, happy, "light in the loafers" assistant undertaker at the local funeral home. Bernie enjoys life and likes people, especially the little old ladies. Bernie also loves theater and loves to sing (Jack Black, it turns out, has a really good singing voice) whether it be on stage or hymns in church.
Shirley MacLaine, one of my favorites over the years, is little old local wealthy lady Marjorie Nugent. After her husband died Bernie did what he could to be nice to Marjorie, such as going to her home to give her little gifts, bath soap and brownies, for example. Marjorie didn't have friends, even her other family members shunned her, she had a reputation for being so difficult. Some even considered her hateful.
But she takes a liking to Bernie's company. Soon they are going places together, shopping for nicer clothes, and eventually taking trips, even out of the country. But Marjorie started to be mean to Bernie, she demanded he become only part-time at the funeral home, she wanted him to be with her all the time, he eventually became almost her servant. Bernie became increasingly wary of her.
Then one day the local people quit seeing Marjorie. Her financial adviser asked about her. Her long-time hairdresser was disappointed that she quit going to him. Bernie told them she had had a mild stroke and was in a hospital out of town, that she needed rest and recovery time. But people became suspicious.
One of those was Matthew McConaughey as local D.A. Danny Buck . He was determined to get to the bottom of all this.
Bernie, Marjorie, and Danny are real people, and all this really happened in Carthage from the late 1980s through the late 1990s. Jack Black shows his versatility, he doesn't miss a beat in his role as Bernie, making him funny but also real. The movie uses many local non-actors who appear interview-style telling various (scripted) stories about Bernie and Marjorie. Many of them actually knew them.
This is a somewhat quirky story, some may not like it, but for me it was a total fun movie. Plus the extras on the DVD are in many ways as interesting as the movie itself, and gives additional insights into Carthage and the Bernie story.
SPOILERS: After Marjorie was missing for several months the police opened her home to search for any evidence of wrong-doing. In the garage they found Marjorie's body in the chest-type freezer, frozen under various food packages. She had been shot, four times, in the back. (A very brief early scene depicts it.) Bernie, a non-violent person, had just "snapped" under her oppressive treatment. But he knew she needed a proper burial, that is why he kept her in the freezer. In a legal twist, the trial was moved to a different region, so that there could be a fair trial, because Bernie was so well-liked they were afraid no Carthage jury would convict him. Today Bernie is serving his prison time in a Texas prison.
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