Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey, Brady Coleman, Richard Robichaux
What drew me into watching Bernie is what probably will draw most other people in, the fact that the main character is played by Jack Black (School of Rock, High Fidelity). It’s got to be wacky, funny and he’ll play his globally known wacky-character-self. In fact, we get a different Jack Black. Of course Black still plays the funny, quirky and somewhat strange character we are all used to seeing, but the way in which the film is done gives his acting another side to it.
Bernie is, believe it or not, based on a true story, one of those you wouldn’t be able to make up. Richard Linklater (School of Rock), takes the story and turns it into a dark comedy of manners, and quite truly an inspirational casting of Black as the eponymous undertaker and possibly the nicest man the world has ever seen.
Bernie Tiede is an undertaker renowned for his embalming work, and lovely Christian singing voice, (you’ll understand when you watch it). He’s gentle with the bereaved, always making them feel better, whilst bringing life into the dead.
Claims that Bernie is, how shall I put it, light in the loafers, are shrugged off because of how kind, sweet and discreet he is. We find this out through the technique that Linklater uses, having the townsfolk interviewed in a documentary-style way. What really intrigues the townsfolk though, is his mismatched intimate relationship with the condescending, demanding and even conniving Marjorie Nugent, played by Shirley MacLaine (Gambit, Sweet Charity), someone who gets her kicks from the misery of others.
Spoiler alert, well not really as it propels the film into full force, he shoots her in the back four times, just because he can’t take it anymore. This is what brings the comedy and kick to the film, as he tries to conceal his crime to everyone. He begins to embezzle Marjorie’s funds to endow college scholarships and bestow charity on the needy, and that’s just a fraction of his frenetic and social secret lives. However suspicions are raised of course by Marjorie’s lawyer, played by Richard Robichaux (Not really of anything worth mentioning), who hasn’t had contact with her. This is where Matthew McConaughey’s (Magic Mike, Lincoln Lawyer) prosecutor comes in, however most of Carthage (where it is set), wants him to back off , even though murder has been done.
Because Bernie is such a nice and wonderful human being, it leaves you wondering whether or not he’ll be let off, giving the film a bit of suspense.
Overall the film does take a while to get into gear, as Linklater focuses on showing who Bernie is, and what his character does. However when it finally gets into flight we get a funny peculiar and “funny ha ha” film that has Black in a role only he could fill. Definitely worth going to see.