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Jack Black is funny, he's charismatic, and from the charm he brings on
screen; he's proved to be a respectable and entertaining actor. Whether
he's strumming his guitar like a true rockstar, doing the voice of Po
in Dreamwork's 'Kung Fu Panda', or just being the hilarious comedian he
is, he rarely disappoints. This black comedy inspired by true events
that made Texas headlines in 1996 however, is a step to a slightly
different world with a mixed bag of both laughs and dark, morbid humor.
Black steps on screen to demonstrate what is by far one of his most
ingenious performances of his career, if not the most. Reuniting with
director Richard Linklater after their first collaboration in the
feel-good comedy 'School of Rock', Black portrays an average man with a
heart of gold but was forced to battle his inner demons after one
not-so-smart choice was made. The actor plays Berrnie Tiede, a
mild-manner Gospel singer at a church choir and mortician in the small
town of Carthage, Texas. The kind-hearted man is easily the most loved
man in town, judging by the interviews by various residents given
throughout the film; all the women adore him, everyone at his church
speaks highly of him for everything he does them. The man is basically
considered family everyone in town including the mean-spirited Marjorie
Nugent (played by Shirley MacLaine), an old 80-year old who is the very
opposite of what everyone calls kind. When Bernie befriends the old
woman, she demonstrates cruel and sour demeanor that before too long,
drives Bernie up the wall to the point where his actions lead to
This isn't your average laugh-out-loud or hysterical Jack Black many fans are accustom to. Yes, there are some funny moments to be offered here but they're funny in a dark, morbid manner in what takes grim, tragic story and turns into a light-hearted fare. But what is a black comedy without a fair share of substance? Director Richard Linklater grants this picture with not only great smarts but a small pinch of inventiveness, presenting the story in a mockumentary style with minor characters and extras shown in interviews often describing the titular character or bad-mouthing Mrs. Nugent for her demeanor. The story as a whole is nothing short of wit and cleverness, and the script by Richard Linklater is thank for this. The film strives not for a intriguing narrative merit but also with an artistic style. It is beautifully shot with a production design that expresses a retro feel as the story is set in 1996. The makeup and hairstyling done on Jack Black to represent the ironic mortician is nice to look at and doesn't look cheesy one bit. Overall, the real gem of Jack Black's character is his darkly funny and sharp performance. Just a step away from his typical cheery character stereotype, Jack Black gives a charismatic portrayal in his role, and plays his character with both sincerity and charm. The same can almost be about Shirley MacLaine but with more cruelty and less humor as the sour apple of a lady. Matthew McConaughey also takes on the role of lawyer but with less screen time and in role that is not likely to be a memorable one his filmography.
Bernie is a smart, ingenious dark comedy with both morbid humor and moody style but doesn't shine without the fantastic performance by the ever-likable Jack Black as the titular character. It is a sweet, stylish effort by director Richard Linklater, and can easily stand as one of the the Jack Black role to remember.
In the east Texas town of Carthage, portly, happy-hearted mortician--sorry, "funeral director"-- Bernhardt Tiede befriends (or, perhaps, worms his way into the life of) the county's wealthiest widow, a friendless harridan with no patience or sense of humor, who takes an unusual shine to Bernie and makes him her traveling companion and financial manager. How this relationship transpires, and the tragedy it leads to, should be the heart of this true story, but director/co-producer/co-screenwriter Richard Linklater doesn't develop it, and the performances suffer as a result. In the lead, Jack Black is necessarily colorful and over-the-top, but he's rarely in character here (particularly in the film's first half). As Bernie's meal ticket, Shirley MacLaine hasn't much to work with; she isn't able to give this impossible woman much shading, mainly because it's not there in the writing. It is delightful watching MacLaine and Black vacation together, soaking up the sun in their bathing suits or taking a dip in a double-sided pool lounger--they're quite a pair--but Linklater's handling is lax in general, while the quasi-interviews with the mouthy townspeople are merely present to bolster the weak narrative. **1/2 from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Bernie is filmed in a faux-documentary style that seems to present the
small community of Berthage's opinion on Bernie Tiede as realistic and
genuine as possible. The talking heads are filmed in their natural
environments - residents and cars go on about their daily lives in the
background - and some of the segments devolve into petty gossip and
slander like an interview might if it had been about a notoriously
hated member of the community. In one certain clip one of the
'interviewees' cannot even help herself but laugh at her friend's
antics. It seems genuine...a natural born reaction. Yet some of these
people are actors. I am reminded of Up in the Air, where Reitman mixed
real footage of people being fired and their reactions to it with paid
professional actors reading from a script. The intent is all well and
good, until JK Simmons pops up on the screen and try as he might, it
does not seem anything but artificial. Here Matthew McConaughey fills
this role. He has never been shy to disguise or hide his Texan drawl,
and here it is in full display both in his public appearances and in
front of the camera. And when he makes an impassionate plea to the jury
and court, with his precisely chosen words, his moral disgust, his
little shake of the head, the "no no no" at the injustice that might be
served...there is no doubt in our minds this is a performance. Of
course, this is the point; Buck Davidson knows how he must play the
case in order to sway even the loyal Carthage crowd, so he acts and
acts and intentionally mispronounces "Les Miserables" so that he may
get the low-class hicks on his side and, more importantly, laughing at
Bernie. But it does begin to leak out of the story itself; it is hard
to see anything but Matthew McConaughey after a while.
This is not merely an artistic endeavour for Linklater. In 2014, after new evidence emerged of child abuse that may have caused a dissociative episode that lead to Marjorie Nugent's shooting, Bernie Tiede was freed on bail, with a peculiar condition set by the judge that he must live in Linklater's garage apartment. Clearly he knows much of this man, this so-called murderer, that inspired him to make this film as a defense (yes, of Bernie Tiede). I will not ever sit in that courtroom and we may not know the whole and utter truth of the case, but nevertheless it seems that there are whole swathes of the story that remain curiously unexplored in Bernie. The full extent of Bernie's 'abuse', for example, is little more than an old granny shouting herself hoarse, spitting rude put-downs and, shock horror, remotely closing the gates of the estate in order to keep Bernie trapped with him. This does not feel suffocating enough to drive a man to murder. Linklater, however, has devoted much time to establishing the character of Bernie Tiede, to the rest of the narrative's demise. I have no doubt that the opening scene is brilliant; a formal introduction for a man who unequivocally loves his craft, harbours a delightful and darkly humorous approach to it, who simpers his way into the audience's hearts. Jack Black can receive no criticism. He plays Bernie to the full extent of what is asked of him; a rotund, bouncing, eccentric, ever-smiling baby-faced bundle of joy, and ever so carefully treads the line between sincerity and ridiculousness. When he leads the church hymns like a world-class vocalist, when he addresses corpses lovingly, and when he "suggests the Corinthian" (no doubt he picked the name) as if he is recommending a car and not a coffin, it seems bizarre to the viewer, but Black has made us 100% sure of Bernie's sincerity. It makes me wish he did not come with the baggage of his comedic persona, because in small moments it becomes hard to take Bernie seriously. Again it is the problem of the actor shining through the story. Black is by definition charismatic, so he seems perfect for the role, but it feels ungenuine. Linklater has forgone the nuances of characterisation and entire areas of Bernie (the suggestion of homosexuality, for example) to ham up the eccentricities that Black has no doubt graciously provided. See how he waddles in the final shot as he is lead back to his cell. It is a subtle performance, just like it is for McConaughey. Linklater and Black, who spent a great deal of time conversing with the real Bernie Tiede to improve his portrayal, may very well know Bernie intimately and have good reason to believe of his innocence. But all this is hidden under Hollywood artifice.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A quirky film? Yes. Yet a film that shows you that even the best of us
can be caught up in a situation that leads us to go astray. Bernie is
such a film; although, the justification for murder as a solution is in
direct violation of societal mores.
An extremely affable character, Bernie actually is beloved in his small Texas town of Carthage. He is helpful, resourceful, kind and gives so much of himself.
Of course, that all changes when he meets Marjorie Nugent at the time he buries her husband. Just the opposite of Bernie, she falls for his kindness, but her overpowering domineering of their relationship becomes too much for our guy to handle and he succumbs to the murder idea of getting her out of his life.
Jack Black is wonderful as he conveys Bernie to a tee. The domineering woman, played by Shirley MacLaine, is also picture perfect. Matthew McConaughey's portrayal of the District Attorney is almost a voice of reason to a town who has become entirely sympathetic to what has occurred.
This film was very entertaining. Thanks mainly to the script and the
acting. Jack Black continues to impress me with his acting skills. And
this movie is no exception. I did not believe that it was a true story
in the beginning but after they showed pictures at the end of the
actual killer and his victim I did some research and got some more
background information. It is very sad that somebody could behave in
this way, but somethings in life will always amaze me.
Watch it and see for yourself how people can behave irrational for a split second causing the effects to have ling term implications.
I am sure you will like it and will find the story shocking, thanks to all the supporting casts portrayal of an interesting time.
Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is an effeminate beloved skilled mortician
who loves to sing. He arrives in the small town of Carthage in east
Texas and befriends wealthy, hated widow Marjorie Nugent (Shirley
MacLaine). They become inseparable. However after a couple of years,
their relationship starts to fray. Marjorie's bitterness pushes Bernie
over the edge and he shoots her in the back. For months after, Bernie
is able to keep Marjorie's death a secret while using her wealth.
Eventually her body is found in her freezer and D.A. Danny Buck
Davidson (Matthew McConaughey) charges Bernie for murder. Despite his
confession, many in Carthage continue to support Bernie in the murder
of the hated Marjorie.
The talking heads really get tiresome after awhile. It's an interesting film technique to introduce the story. However I need more time with just Bernie and Marjorie together. It's too bad because Jack Black is so invested in the role. It could have been an Oscar winning performance for him if the movie concentrated on him and Shirley MacLaine. It could have been Foxcatcher but the talking heads keep Bernie at a distance. Instead of diving in, the audience is forced back. The limited section in the middle of watching the two act is awesome. That's the heart of the movie.
At first, upon hearing about this, didn't have high expectations at all. Not a big fan of Jack Black, and the title Bernie just makes it seem like a ridiculous raunchy comedy. But then reviews were pretty great, and I raised my expectations a lot. I kind of wanted more black comedy in it, as it is, it mostly plays straight as a drama with some darkly comedic moments. Jack Black, though, is the real revelation here. I had no idea he had this in him, and it's a pretty fantastic performance. Matthew McConaughey is also pretty fun here, playing his character as straight as the film requires but also making him really funny. This is some strong work.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Richard Linklater directs a bizarre story based on real events in a
mock documentary style.
The film is a dark comedy and its driven by Jack Black's performance as Bernie the mortician, a popular member of a small-town Texas community. Bernie befriends a wealthy, recently widowed Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) a difficult, cold and manipulative woman.
Bernie and the widow quickly become inseparable, dining out, going on exotic holidays but she quickly gets to be needy and domineering leading Bernie to kill her and storing her body in a freezer.
Eventually Bernie's crimes are discovered and Matthew McConaughey is the DA intent on locking him up but discovers that the town-folk think Bernie is innocent.
McConaughey seems to be enjoying himself in a supporting role, Black brings pathos to his role and makes Bernie a complex and complicated character whilst hinting all the time a dark side to this otherwise charming man.
The real life events took place in the mid 1990s but in a bizarre twist since the films release, Bernie who was serving a life sentence has just been released on bail on the condition that he resides in the same house as Richard Linklater. I just hope Linklater has put a lock on his freezer!
I never knew how good of an actor Jack Black actually was. I knew going
into Bernie that I would be impressed by Matthew McConaughey, so that
came as no surprise, but Black? It turns out that Black earned a Golden
Globe nomination, and won various awards for his role as the main
character, Bernie Tiede.
I was impressed with the acting of the leads, and the rest of the cast, but what also caught my attention is the way this film is organized. It is a mockumentary, and black comedy evidently, but it also incorporates elements of other genres. It is difficult to pinpoint why I found the style so odd and unique, but I can confirm that it worked wonderfully.
Bernie is based on an article that was in the Texas Monthly magazine back in 1998. An 81 year old millionaire named Marjorie Nugent was shot dead by her much younger 39 year old companion, Bernie.
Why is this story interesting? The trial of Bernie required a change of venue, which is something extremely rare. Despite confessing to his murders, district attorney Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey), knew it would not be a fair trial if held in Carthage, Texas.
This is because Bernie was essentially a town celebrity. Everybody not only knew him, but loved him. He was the assistant mortician at a funeral home, before befriending the town grump, Marjorie (Shirley MacLaine), after the death of her husband. The friendliest man in town, and the most hated, formed a strange bond.
While she was cold and rude to everyone, Bernie sang songs for people, donated to charity and the church, and all in all, focused on putting smiles on peoples faces. When he was accused of murdering her, and even after confessing to it, people still wanted him to be let off, while others claimed his innocence.
For wrestling fans who may be reading this, you can compare Bernie to Chris Benoit. Everyone spoke about the man being so nice, and while out in the public eye, he was a star. To this day, knowing he murdered his family, people still love him, and talk in high regards about his career. Which would be okay if they separated the two things, but nope, they still think he deserves praise and a Hall of fame spot.
For those who have no knowledge of this incident, I am sure you caught on to the just of it. Well liked person murders someone not nearly as popular or known, yet people still want to see the murderer praised, or not accused. This is a film that you will already know the story going in, but still manages to pull off an highly entertaining and worthwhile watch.
I will point out though, that it is not very funny. In real life, town folk were upset that they tried to make a real life situation humorous when it deals with an actual death. Called it a lack of sensitivity. My problem was not with that, but more just because I did not laugh at anything. I can assure those people that it did not succeed, and still comes off as sad in the end.
The acting is what makes this film shine above what could have been a failure. Black had a role that could have been very easy to overact, and push it to being unrealistic, and silly. Instead, he brought his character to life properly, and you could believe all the events that unfolded. As you should, of course, since the majority of them did.
You can find this hidden gem on Netflix. Voted the best reviewed comedy film in 2012 on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems that others may have even found it funny. While I did not, I still thought it was a well acted, and fun to watch film. I learned that Jack Black had a lot more talent than I initially would have known about, and got to see a good performance as usual, from McConaughey.
Superpower Film Scale: 4/5 On the verge of greatness
1: Villainous Waste
2: Careless Bystander
3: Hero unaware of powers
4. On the verge of greatness
5. Heroic film
Read More at: http://worshipthylouie.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/bernie- 2012-review/
Bernie is based on a true story. And many of the interviews
interspersed throughout the movie are with real Texans who knew the
real Bernie. Truth is stranger than fiction. Indeed.
Watching Jack Black take on the role of Bernie was a treat in itself. The silly mustache. The paunch. The intensity singing church fare. This was Rock School for the blue hairs, Black making everyone feel good about themselves.
The most enjoyable part of the movie, however, were the interviews. These led the plot forward, gave additional insights into the Black and MacLaine characters, and had the wonderful local lingo and speech of Carthage, Texas. My favorite was the description of the jury, " more tattoos than teeth." Enjoyable all way around.
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