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|Index||140 reviews in total|
I happily recommend it. It'll stay with you for a while.
An entertaining docu-dramedy, weirdly peppered with belly laughs, it has the signature style I expect from Richard (Waking Life) Linklater. The fictionalized reenactment segments are broken up by clips of interviews with real citizens of Carthage, TX. They are arguably the best part of the movie, and without a doubt the funniest.
My favorite things about this film are 1) that it reminded me just what a talent Jack Black is you should see this movie if for no other reason than to hear Black sing gospel, even if you don't like gospel and 2) that Linklater's expert treatment of the peer interviews made me realize: I was always laughing *with* the people of Carthage; never *at* them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a brilliantly conceived non-comedy from Richard Linklater, who
remains one of American cinema's most interesting leftfield filmmakers.
I call it a non-comedy because it doesn't have any jokes, and there's a
brutal murder case at its core, and yet it's very, very funny. It feels
like something that could have emerged in the mid-1990s, after Quentin
Tarantino and Kevin Smith (and Linklater himself) blazed a trail for a
slew of sharply scripted US indies.
The story, based on a true one, is of a morally pure mortician named Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), who has a predilection for befriending vulnerable old ladies in the local community. When he meets Marjorie Nugent (a sour-faced Shirley MacLaine), he meets his match. Her bullying pushes him to a moment of murderous madness. The film is staged like a documentary, except the talking heads exist in the same universe as the reconstructions. It works superbly.
Black, who previously worked with Linklater on the more conventional School of Rock, gives his most skillful and subtle performance to date. It's all about the lack of mugging; the lack of irony. He plays Bernie as a man bulging with goodness: 18 stone drifting angelically across the pristine paving stones of Carthage, all soft humming sun and bungalows, whose North African namesake was once the centre of the world.
The film has much to say about closed communities, namely the heightened tendency to seek to understand the moral and the kindly, and the paradoxical tendency to dehumanise and dismiss the cruel. We know everything about Bernie - he is fully rationalised by the sycophantic townsfolk - but nothing of Marjorie. The result is a telling insight into small town social politics.
Linklater somehow successfully rides the ridge between mockery and aggrandisement. It's testament to his skill as an auteur that by the end such serious subject matter can feel significantly explored without the sunny disposition of the title character being lost behind the cloud of death. It's a film about the USA's favourite pastimes, gun-killing and hero-worshipping, and it proves that when it comes to self-analysis, American filmmakers do it best.
It is not often that a comedy so intelligent and refined, such as
Bernie, that comes along. First and foremost making a comedy out of a
real life dramatic story is an accomplishment in its own right. On to
that add Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McCounaghey and you
got just about the right ingredients.
Bernie is the nicest person a small town has ever known who ends up committing a murder, thus posing the question: if the perpetrator of a crime is highly regarded and the victim is not, does this make the crime any lesser?
Superb performances by McCounaghey and Black, intelligent dialogue, and a dual format that of film documentary assures you of a good time at the cinema.
Often comedies have a tendency to be lame, which is confused as humour and Bernie was undoubtedly a breath of fresh air.
Normally seen as the hyperactive comedy performer (and lead singer of
the legendary Tenacious D), Jack Black show rare restraint in 'Bernie'
a film about small town do-gooder Bernie Tiede (Black) whose kills
Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) after she pushes him too far.
On the surface, Bernie is you average super nice guy. He's the mortician in Carthage but does so more, his seemingly limitless generosity and pure Christian value making him a town favourite. When he takes the recent widowed Mrs. Nugent under his wing, she abuses his trust and pushes poor old Bernie to breaking point.
There are a number of things to like about the film despite its perverse plot. Based on the real Mr. Tiede, the film features documentary-style interviews with the residents of Carthage. They talk about all the good Bernie did (even pushing aside rumours he was gay) and how despised Mrs. Nugent was. When Bernie is convicted by Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey), the townspeople are in disbelief that a sweet man like Bernie could be driven to murder. Bernie is so exalted by the community that his murder trial is moved so he can be given a fair hearing.
Jack Black's performance is fantastic. He shows how good an actor he is after stripping away the histrionics of being "Jack Black" and fans of the D will get to hear him sing a lot of church hymns, including 'Amazing Grace'. MacLaine is just as good as the vile Mrs. Nugent. At first she laps up Bernie's kindness before her insecurities and possessiveness overwhelm them both.
The big lesson from this film is about treating people. While Bernie has almost limitless generosity (using the late Mrs. Nugent's money to helps the Carthage citizens), his inability to say no and the repression of living in a strictly Catholic committee causes him to crack. Bernie is nice all the time (even when he doesn't have to be) and the lack of an outlet causes a fatal build-up of frustration.
'Bernie' is well worth a look for a different take on how one man can be pushed too far.
There is always something different and interesting about Linklater's
Movies. Here he does not disappoint and Jack Black gives a completely
full and endearing performance This is crafted like a crazy woman's
quilt and it fits snugly in the Black Comedy genre. The jewel in this
crown is the fact that it is fact and this really happened pretty much
as portrayed here.
The whole ensemble of professional Actors and real People are stellar and believable in this unbelievable real event. There is awe in watching the folks interviewed and everyone of Bernie's supporters are jaw dropping in their "belief", contrary to the facts, that this Man could not have done what he did because he was charming, went to Church, and was generous to a fault.
Therein lies the flaw in the reality of Human behavior and this Movie uncovers it with wit and subtlety. That is, without giving away tons of cash and flowering his friends with complements, badly needed attention, and charming, persuasive and masterful manipulation, these town folks would be at best indifferent to this oddball.
It is this unique combination of inconvenient truth, an unconventional Directorial slant, and an uncanny lead performance that makes this charming and pleasing, just like the real Bernie.
AFTERTHOUGHT: If they ever decide to make a Movie about Laurel and Hardy...Jack Black is a lock.
When you see this poster with that classic JB pose and you read that
this movie is a comedy, you would think: hey another JB comedy, I
should check it out or hey another JB comedy, I should avoid it, but
the truth is much different... For me, ever since Pick Of Destiny, Jack
Blacks career has been steadily declining with that awful, awful
crowning achievement called Gulliver's Travels. Granted there has been
a couple of movies where he was decent, but not as a lead role. Well,
after seeing Bernie, one thing is for sure, JB is back! He finally came
to terms with his acting and the type of roles that he plays, and used
that to his advantage, without that forced goofing around that I really
didn't like. Much like Based on a true story, later published in a
local newspaper, this is a movie about one of those little man, just
like you and me, but whose life took a turn and they, well, you'll see
. Bernie is just one of those guys that everybody likes, with his
unconditional love, calm demeanor and desire to help everyone. He moves
in a small town in Texas called Carthage, where he gets a job at a
local mortuary. He excels at it, making an art out of putting make up
on dead people for their funerals. He lives his days, practicing
singing and hanging out with old ladies that no one cares about,
bringing happiness to everyone. Without a wife or a girlfriend he is a
well sought merchandise in this small town, but one faithful day he
meets Marjorie Nugent, an extremely wealthy widow and two of them don't
hit it off. Marjorie is a real old, nagging bitch in a true sense of
that word, who almost everyone hates and Bernie decides that she is the
person that needs his kindness, time and effort. What happens after his
decision is up to you to find out, especially did he wanted to make
Marjorie happy or did he was just looking out for himself...
Shirley MacLaine, an extraordinary actress with her phenomenal performance as Marjorie created that link with Jack Black that made this movie so good, not to mention other actors, of which some are actual residents of Carthage, who actually knew the real Marjorie and Bernie. Very thought provoking movie, Bernie makes us question our own lives and it shows us how can a whirlwind of events lead one person to end up in a place that it doesn't deserve, or maybe it does?
Movie recommendations Rabbit-Reviews.com - Only movies worth watching
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on a true story and set in East Texas, Richard Linklater's
"Bernie" stars Jack Black as Bernie Tiede, a homosexual mortician.
Bernie's supremely polite, generous, religious and affectionate toward
everyone he meets. When he befriends an elderly, wealthy widow named
Marjorie Nugent (Shirley Maclaine), however, Bernie's kind,
self-sacrificial nature results in monstrous blow-back. Marjorie takes
advantage of Bernie's generosity, exploits the poor mortician, and
pushes him to such an extent that, in a fit of rage, he shoots her four
times in the back. He is subsequently jailed.
The film's mildly amusing but mostly thin, superficial and I suspect based on lazy journalism. Why not explore how the conservatism of his small town led to Bernie, ashamed of his homosexuality, becoming very needy, religious and hungry for acceptance? Consumed by both self-hate and guilt, Bernie overcompensated by showering everyone he met with gifts and adulation. He wanted to be liked. He couldn't bear scorn or judgement. Why ignore this? And while many in his town bought Bernie's goodwill gestures, an equal amount were deeply suspicious of the man, and viewed him as being insincere, a fraud and con artist. Why ignore this? And while the film states that Bernie didn't enter a relationship with Mrs Nugent for money (she actually gave him three million dollars), it is true that he used her cash to lavish gifts upon several gay lovers. Why ignore this? And why ignore theories that Bernie killed the 81 year old because she had discovered him stealing and was attempting to cut him off?
The film opens with a clever sequence in which Bernie "prepares a corpse". Bernie's job, we learn, is essentially to make "dead bodies presentable". This deception extends to his own persona. Bernie puts on a front, a fake veneer, all to make other people feel welcomed and at ease. But doesn't Linklater's film then swiftly drop this idea? Doesn't he cease all duplicitous hints and instead paint Bernie as simply a kind hearted man-child who gets in over his head? Is Linklater simply being very very subtle (Bernie's even conning himself? He really believes he's the victim?), or does Linklater really believe that Bernie's a bit of an innocent man-child? It's hard to know Linklater's stance within the film. Outside the film, he's made it clear that he believes Bernie should have received only 10 years jail-time and not life imprisonment. From this we can infer that the film is attempting to exonerate rather then condemn Bernie.
Either way, there's something tasteless about the way Mrs Nugent is turned into an evil villain. Indeed, the film at times shares the ageist, hateful mentality of Marjorie's fellow town-folk, a view which a lawyer, played by Matthew McConaughey, tries to combat. Recognising that his town has fallen under the charm of Bernie, McConaughey moves Bernie's trial to a neighbouring city. Only then is he able to get a conviction. Bernie's supporters are shocked at this conviction, but was Bernie really a victim? The real Nugent was a frail woman and it's hard to believe her bullying anybody, even one as supposedly meek as Bernie. And as time rolls on, in the real world, more and more of Nugent's friends and relatives are speaking out and painting a nicer picture of the woman. It seems the character's negative qualities were based on interviews done with Marjorie's family members, all of whom were at the time engaged in messy, bullying legal battles with the elderly widow.
The film is filed with testimonies and talking heads; real villagers from Bernie's town, but also some actors with scripted lines. Linklater makes some vague point about Bernie, idolatry and truth (who's the victim, who's the victimiser? Were Marjorie and Bernie both guilty of abuse?), but one's overall impression is that "Bernie's" slightness could have been avoided by doing some proper, damn research.
7.9/10 - Worth one viewing.
In small-town Texas, the local mortician (Jack Black) strikes up a
friendship with a wealthy widow (Shirley MacLaine), though when he
kills her, he goes to great lengths to create the illusion that she is
I am generally a fan of Richard Linklater's work, despite (or perhaps because of) his unpredictability. When you compare a film like this to "Dazed and Confused", to "Waking Life" and then to "Slacker", it is hard to believe the same man was the visionary behind them all. I think no single director has brought Texas to life like Linklater has (and perhaps pushed the career of Alex Jones).
Here is another Texas story, which happens to be true (or at least true enough). And it stars Jack Black. Typically that would scare me off of a movie. Black is a very talented musician, but his acting is not particularly refined. That being said, this was an ideal role for him. He was able to be funny, quirky, and did not make the part absurd. The musical parts were excellent, and it would be hard to think of another man who could have played this versatile part.
I give the movie a strong endorsement.
"Bernie", an already tragic but immensely intriguing true story, should have the subtitle "Jack Black Reinvented" attached to it. The performances of Matthew McConaughey and the other cast in this half-documentary style film are all fitting and exceptional, but audiences will not be prepared to see Jack Black as Bernie; I mean this as the highest of praises. After Jack Black's personal disappointment with his last year of big-studio films, and the ill state of rock and roll, I can only hope that he found more happiness after this project which will be defined as one of his best performances. I often love when comedians take one more dramatic roles (Jim Carrey- Truman Show/Eternal Sunshine, Will Ferrel- Stranger than Fiction) and this film further solidifies my appreciation for actors who put themselves a little more out of their element on screen and do something different: It makes for organic and very rewarding film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At one point in the story it was mentioned that Carthage, Texas is the
'Squirrel Hunting Capital of the World'. On a couple of occasions,
Shirley MacLaine's character, Marjorie Nugent, is shown meticulously
chewing her food, and she looks just like - a squirrel. Ergo, part time
mortician Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) decides to go squirrel hunting. It
should all make sense, right?
I really wasn't very impressed by this picture, it wasn't a comedy really, and it wasn't a drama. Though I find Jack Black to be OK as an entertainer, I'm not really a fan, so those who call this his career high point might be on to something, I just don't know what. Try this - Jack Black as Bernie Tiede, or Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln. I'm not sure we're even considering the same universe here.
It wasn't until I watched the extras on the DVD that it clicked with me that this was based on a true story and that the unending stream of characters giving their testimonials were actual residents of Carthage. What's dismaying to me is how far over the cliff we've evolved as a society where people not only can't, but won't see the difference between right and wrong based on surface characteristics. Like the lady who really, really, REALLY believed he was innocent. Personally, I thought Bernie was going to be found not guilty as well, but fortunately some semblance of sanity prevailed and he wound up paying for his crime. But I wouldn't have been surprised if it went the other way.
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