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|Index||137 reviews in total|
*** 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.
While Jack Black finally came out of his closet (if one can call it
that), Matthew McConaughey seems to be going for a record in playing an
attorney's character. To make an entertaining movie about an elderly
women's murder that does not have any criminal history or thriller
elements associated with it is challenging, so the director Richard
Linklater took a smart approach on his screenplay by establishing the
characters and emotions around the event as testimonials by the
citizens of the town which worked very well. Jack Black as always the
one who steals the show only this time he wasn't himself, but as an
actual another person.
Follows a true crime story involving Bernie Tiede (played by Jack Black) a mortician who is friendly and liked by the entire town, is very good at his job and the town is divided about his sexual orientation. Bernie meets Mrs Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) at her husband's funeral and as he always does tries to be friendly by visiting and bringing in gifts after the funeral. Mrs. Nugent who is very rich, lonely and hated by the entire community looks at him as a potential companion. Bernie being outgoing and friendly with everyone, Mrs. Nugent restricts his activities and metaphorically imprisons him to act upon her whims in her house. In one desperate moment, Bernie picks up a gun and shoots her in the back. Bernie preserves her body in a freezer and keeps spending Mrs. Nugent's money for the church, school and anyone who needed anything while the suspicions keep arising from her financial manager. While everyone in town had no shred of doubt about Bernie's capability or intentions, the town's DA Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey) thinks otherwise.
I felt the movie told a biased story towards Bernie (though the real man is serving his time and this is not going to do any good). It is very difficult to perceive that the old lady did not have anyone say one nice thing about her. However mean one person might be, after death that too in such circumstances, I believe it may not be like that in real life as shown in the movie. A landmark role for Jack Black since he hasn't done anything like this before. Actually he hasn't done anything like anything else before other than being himself in all his movies. Especially some mannerisms using his hands or the way he walks is hilarious and incredible. Matthew McConaughey is neither new to play an attorney nor using a Texan accent, but there was some weird makeup and it took me sometime to make sure that was him. The tone of the movie was never depressing where most movies that are associated with true crimes tend to do, it is upbeat from begin to finish. The screenplay technique to go with testimonials (as against a narrative) worked wonders in terms of holding attention, presenting the entire characters in different voices but ended up being biased (may thats the real story). I am not sure if this can be in contention for awards, but the real Bernie would have been proud of this effort.
Biased, upbeat and superbly acted.
Just watched this Richard Linklater film on Netflix disc with my mother. We both liked this docudrama about one Bernie Tiede, an assistant funeral director who's popular in the small town of Carthage, Texas, due to his involvement in community activities like the local theater scene. He especially spends lots of playtime with one Marjorie Nugent, an elderly rich woman who's not very nice to others. Based on an article by Skip Hollandsworth who co-wrote the screenplay with Linklater, this movie gives an empathetic view of Bernie, played in the movie by the charismatic Jack Black, and has Shirley MacLaine play Ms. Nugent as mostly off her meds! In other words, quite the cuss! Then there's Matthew McConaughey as prosecutor Danny Buck, whose later trial concerning Tiede gives him a great closing argument in presenting his side of the story. And there's also many fine interviews with the many local townspeople of Carthage that provide many funny anecdotes. So on that note, I recommend Bernie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My hat is off to Jack Black in this movie. Black plays a role totally
counter to his role in School of Rock. He plays it very well. Dull and
Gray as a Funeral Director, if anything Black might be over the top on
the dull. The folks I have met in that industry through the losses in
my life are sort of like that but they are special people. It takes a
special person to do that sort of work. They are the kind of person you
trust with your loved one.
Black catches this and then some in this performance. The supporting cast seems to play off Black perfectly. Even though this is a well made film, it is not perfect. That is because perfect would take this true story and make it more compelling. In a way I wish Alfred Hitchcock were alive. This is the kind of story the master director of suspense would have really taken and made it into a great movie.
Be that as it may, even without him the story is important as the Bernie Madoff story. It does not matter what kind of facade a person puts up, it does not mean you should trust them. The true story here screams for the master's touch.
It is set in Texas and the depiction of the state and it's people rings to be very accurate. They all are so emotionally taken by Bernie(Black) that they want him kept out of jail. Black's performance certainly pulls this off. I think if the story had been given a different spin it could have been made more entertaining. Instead we get a true story that in a few years cries for a remake with Justin Beiber playing Bernie. Just kidding on that one but you never know, Justin might just need that role when he grows up (or if he grows up). The transition from child prodigy too adult can be a rough road. It is that kind of road this movie tries to navigate, sometimes successfully.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jack Black is absolutely outstanding as the title character
'Bernie'.'Bernie' is often very quirky and funny in the darkest of
ways. Director Richard Linklater has a really tough sell here, how does
one present a fictionalized account of a story so sensational and
eccentric as this bizarre real life murder? For the film to work we
don't really need to like Bernie but we have to believe a human being
is capable of such an abnormal level of niceness. Black excels here.
Never do we suspect the character of Bernie of entering this
questionable relationship with Marjorie Nugent based on money or
selfishness. Linklater and Black frame a story around a man who is just
too nice for his own good and snaps because of it. The story and
Black's performance seem like the stuff the breed of quirky country
tales are made of and I was struck to find out there really was a
Bernie Tiede. The fact that I laughed and was so engaged with Black is
a testament to his skills because the subject matter is extremely
morbid. The film raises questions that aren't answered by Black and his
performance and part of 'Bernie's charm is that these questions are
raised. 'Bernie' works best as the kind of film that takes a slice of
humanity and presents it to the world. It explores the depths of
weirdness human beings are capable of.
There are obviously more sinister implications Linklater could have gone to in his script but he wisely chooses not to. 'Bernie' is as much about the small town of Carthage as it is about it's title character. The fact that people were so taken in by this character is so fascinating. How could Marjorie Nugent be so mean spirited that people actually wished her confessed murderer to go free in spite of everything? Linklater interviews Carthage residents and they become a spiritual character in the story. Communities create their own morals and codes and Carthage was willing to warp theirs to serve Bernie Tiede because he was such a magnetic personality who seemed so damn nice. Linklater could have created a clearly motivated Bernie and yet he doesn't. He's quirky and nice and this exterior might be hiding something else. Linklater leaves it the populace of Carthage to dissect Bernie for us and since this story is so good it becomes sensationalized in the telling and re-tellings over the course of the film. It is just so entertaining and perplexing to see residents who would normally gobble a story like this up and sensationalized a murderer turn around and sensationalize the victim. Jack Black gives a performance where we could see this conceivably happen.
What a fun movie this was to watch, between the great performance of Jack Black as Bernie and the real life interviews with the people in Texas who knew the real Bernie, it made for a greatly entertaining and funny film. Mainstream films are more and more cliché and boring and repetitive, so its great to see some low key films like this come out and offer some originality and even obtain notable stars like Jack Black & Matthew McConaughey take part in a smaller budget film like this. As of right now the average rating on IMDb for this film is 6.8 and that is ridiculous! I Highly recommend this film if you are looking for something original and good to watch and are tired of big Hollywood blockbusters that are nothing memorable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jack Black delivers probably the best performance of his entire career, as he teams up with his "School of Rock" director Richard Linklater, in the dark comedy "Bernie", a quirky comedy-drama based on an actual murder that occurred in 1996 Carthage, East Texas. Although this movie has a few minor gripes, "Bernie" is one of the more better films of the year. Jack Black plays the title character, Bernie Tiede, a funeral director loved by all residents of Carthage, and seems to be the nicest guy to everyone in town. Now, we are introduced to the meanest woman in town, Marjorie Nujent, a mean-spirited widower, played perfectly by Shirley MaClaine. Bernie, being the nice guy that he is, decides to comfort Marjorie by being a loyal friend, by traveling the world together, and always hang out with one another. But it's years later that Bernie feels more like Marjorie's personal slave, instead of a friend. Marjorie starts to become overly obsessive over Bernie, forcing him to become her servant to pick out her clothes, shoot armadillos in her yard, cut her nails, and even trim her chin hairs. As much as he would rather attend in town gatherings, annual concerts, and befriending the elderly, he is trapped in a world of torture with one vicious old woman. Now, watch out, here comes a big...SPOILER ALERT! Bernie has realized he's had enough of the torture, and ends up murdering Marjorie, shooting her four times in the back. Feeling bad about the murder, Bernie must try his best to hide the fact that Marjorie is dead, without being caught by the local district attorney, portrayed in a surprisingly excellent performance provided by Matthew McConaughey. Half of this movie feels like a documentary where we get interviews with the actual residents from Carthage, and the other half is the cast re-enacting the story. For this being a movie based on an actual event, we don't usually see something like this, so I have to congratulate this movie for being totally unique in this type of delivery. Director Richard Linklater has clearly made a competent motion picture. The writing is crisp and invigorating, the directing is unique, the tone is great, and the realism of it all is told perfectly. As for the performances, Jack Black takes a break from his usual type-casted raunchy comedies, and brings a more serious and dramatic performance to the screen. This movie is easily the highlight of his career. Shirley MaClaine is still really great in her role, but at the same time, she didn't feel used a lot in this movie, than I thought she would be. Although delivered some screen-time, Matthew McConaughey finally delivers an excellent and wise-cracking performance, where this time, he's not type-casted as the hip ladies' man, and now he's a serious district attorney hoping to crack the case of this unusual mystery. Speaking of which, the movie hardly contains any mystery or drama to keep up with the suspense of wondering what will happen next. Since this is based on a true event, the audience can already guess and visualize what will happen now. Overall, "Bernie" could have been nothing but a dark comedy "gimmick", but it turns out that with it's interesting characters and well-told plot, "Bernie" is both an entertaining and interesting motion picture. "Bernie", in my review, "interestingly captivating entertainment, if flawed".
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