Release Date: May 4, 2012
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey
Runtime: 104 min
Tagline: A story so unbelievable it must be true.
Oscar nominated writer (Before Sunset) and director Richard Linklater, known for directing such comedies as Dazed and Confused and School of Rock; and such dramas as Before Sunset and Me and Orson Welles. Now, he’s back in the directing chair after a three-year hiatus and back in the writing chair after five years, with this clever dark comedy.
Meet Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) the nicest [closet] killer you’ll ever know. Bernie’s the local funeral director in a small town in Texas, called Carthage. He’s the nicest guy around town, as he has a great ability to make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world. He’s the best at what he does, he has a magnificent singing voice, and is just about the biggest legend around town. After Bernie strikes up an unusual relationship with the town female Scrooge and recent widow, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), and changes her for the better, for a short time. When she turns even bitter to even Bernie; he reaches a breaking point and must put on a whole charade, hilariously, to hide his dark secret from the whole town.
It’s a well-made little comedic docudrama that had me laughing at all the comments of Bernie from the townspeople. I liked the way it was made, it’s a little low-key and the documentary-style of it made it a fairly unique viewing experience.
Before this, Jack Black’s best work was in School of Rock (a project also with Linklater), for his great comedic timing – but Black has proved himself as a great drama actor too; even though this film combines all elements of comedy, drama and crime. The great acting he brings to this film though, is even better than his work in King Kong.
Jack Black is equal parts funny and dramatic. Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine also bring solid acting jobs here. MacLaine’s character isn’t overly hysterical, she does a great job at playing this overly cold woman. McConaughey does get a few laughs here as the District Attorney Danny Buck. The people who get the most laughs are the locals offering some insight and commentary to the situations in the film.
The whole true story of it all is the most interesting aspect of the flick, but it really all is pretty bizarre (making the tagline [A story so unbelievable it must be true] a very accurate statement). It’s funny in the worst of situations, and that is one thing that is admirable about it. Some of it feels quite dragged out, and the morals of it are all a little twisted. You definitely don’t want Bernie going to jail, because he’s just so likeable. It’s one of those films where the main protagonist is a criminal, and then MacLaine’s character and McConaughey’s are the antagonists.
Bernie is a film that may not be for everyone, but is definitely an interesting experience. It’s a pretty controversial (because you may relate to the criminal) witty dark comedy that offers low-key crime entertainment and pretty solid performances by the three main stars.