Bernie - 4 out of 5
Can a comedy exist about a real life murder? Bernie proves it can.
Based on the real-life murder of 81 year old millionaire Marjorie Nugent (played by Shirley MacLaine) in Carthage, Texas in 1996 by her companion Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), the film follows Bernie's arrival to Carthage as an assistant funeral director to his rise as a man who captured the heart of the city with his personality and genuine kindness to his fall from grace.
|And yes...Jack Black does sing in it.|
Bernie's large heart caused him to act as a grief counselor to the widows of the community and he takes it as a personal mission to win over the icy heart of the recently widowed millionaire Marjorie. Persistence and a healthy dose of "killing them with kindness" (later killing with bullets) finally gets Bernie into Marjorie's good graces but he soon lives to regret it as the angry millionaire becomes possessive of the helpful man, using his gentle and generous nature to make him her permanent companion and, for the most part, her indentured servant.
|Stare at this picture of Shirley MacLaine for 10 seconds...at the 9 second mark|
you will go insane.
Marjorie's possessive nature and belittling attitude eventually gets the better of Bernie and he finds himself murdering her and hiding the body. He tries vainly to live his normal life while living the lie that Marjorie is just sick but, ultimately, his crime is discovered and Bernie is on a one-way drive to the justice system. But here's the problem: Despite his crime, everyone in the city loves Bernie so, in order to secure a fair trial, District Attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey) is forced to move the trial 50 miles away.
|WOW...congrats to the filmmakers for making McConaughey kinda/sort of |
unattractive. Women might take a second longer to decide to sleep with him.
This tragicomedy seems like something that shouldn't be made--especially in comedy form--but, you know what, it works. Documentary elements are thrown in as real life residents of Carthage (and people who knew the real Bernie and Marjorie) are interviewed through the film alongside actors playing roles of people in the real-life events. The only ones not given the "Confessional" treatment are Bernie and Marjorie. Instead, we see all their events in your typical storytelling movie way. This combination of both showing and telling makes for an interesting and engaging movie fill with great characters.
|No one told her the camera was on.|
Even though the film is sold as a dark comedy, Bernie is never outright hilarious. The film offers a few chuckles but never did I find myself laughing uproariously. However, this isn't a bad thing because the story is fantastic and the performances are unbelievable. Most notably the performance of Jack Black.
|Whoever this girl was she was good too...well, at least better than Shia LaBeouf.|
Not that such a thing is difficult to achieve.
It's possible when having Black the lead role in a movie that he'll soon wear out his welcome. Don't get me wrong, I love Jack Black. Tenacious D rocks and he's a very funny guy but most of his leading roles showcases him as bieng too obnoxious. I used to believe that Black shined better in supporting roles but his subdued and controlled performance in this film shows his ability to completely emerge himself into a character that doesn't require sarcasm or spastic gestures and it proved to be both refreshing and amazing to sit through. His performance is so good in this movie that it shows that Black could easily be on the path to evolve into a great dramatic actor.
|While his performance is amazing, his mustache deserves special praise as well.|
Look at that damn thing!
Incredibly unique and fun to watch, Bernie is one of those special movies that sneaks under the radar of the American movie going public that deserves more press than it received. While the movie isn't as funny as you might think it could be going into it as it is labeled a comedy, the movie is terrifically well put together as it feels like a documentary and a drama came together to make a movie baby and the stellar performance of Jack Black alone is enough reason to warrant giving this one a chance.