Bernie the movie is a light comedy/drama based on the true story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a consensus much beloved nicest guy in town and wonderful human being, who inexplicably took up company with the consensus most miserable human being in town, older widow Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine).
They met at the funeral of her husband. Bernie was a mortician/funeral director and as one resident says, “With Bernie doing your service, you knew you were going to get to heaven.” He would arrange everything, comfort the family, sing beautiful hymns, and give a great eulogy. He felt like this was his calling – to bring happiness to people in their darkest hour. Bernie may have met his match in Marjorie, though. He feels everyone deserves happiness, even her, and he eventually manages to win her over.
There are a couple of people who don’t like Bernie, though. One is District Attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey), a self-promoting egotist in a cowboy hat (this film takes place in
). He “hears things” about Bernie. He feels Bernie is probably a homosexual…not that that’s illegal. The other person who dislikes Bernie is Marjorie’s former financial adviser Lloyd Hornbuckle (Richard Robichaux). He’s a “former” adviser because Bernie supplants him as the one handling Marjorie’s money. It’s pointed out that Bernie and Marjorie go on many trips together, and that she buys him a lot of gifts. Texas
Marjorie eventually starts to wear Bernie down. He gives up his job as a funeral director – his calling – to become her personal assistant. As the movie goes on “assistant” starts looking like “lackey”, then eventually “whipping boy”. Can even Bernie stand up to this kind of abuse? And is he really so nice that he will put up with someone no other person will, or is he putting up with her for her money?
Jack Black is fantastic as Bernie. He plays him in a restrained manner, very much the opposite of his
character. Bernie is a true gentleman. In addition to all of his other virtues he also volunteers putting on musicals for the town. He organizes them, gets funding for them, directs them, trains the other performers, and stars in them. It’s a lot of fun to see sometime-rocker Jack Black singing show tunes, including Seventy-Six Trombones during a full dress rehearsal of The Music Man. School of Rock
MacLaine is spot on as one of the meanest women you will ever meet. It’s fun when Bernie seems to be melting even her cold heart, but her best scenes are when she lets it all out. McConaughey continues his great 2012 (Killer Joe – 3 stars and Magic Mike, which I have not seen, but which a lot of women enjoyed).
Perhaps what makes this a really fun film though, are the comments from the townspeople regarding the whole Bernie/Marjorie situation. Many of them are the real people who were around in
when the actual events happened, although they have said that their comments were mostly scripted and not off the cuff. They have some great lines like “there are people in town, honey, that would have shot her for five dollars.” McConaughey’s mother Kay appears as one of the townspeople. Carthage, Texas
I have a love/hate relationship with Richard Linklater’s films. I rarely have an “it was okay” reaction after I’ve finished watching one. I usually either really like it (i.e. Before
) or really dislike it (i.e. Waking Life). In this case I really like Bernie the movie. As I said at the top, Black does a great job with it. He gets to show that with the right role he really is a talented entertainer. While Bernie the movie doesn’t completely wipe out my memories of Nacho Libre and Envy, it does go a long way in helping. I highly recommend this film. Sunrise
Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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