Bernie: the review
Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is a sweet, mild-mannered funeral home director in Carthage, Texas. He is universally beloved by everyone who knows him, and he goes out of his way to help everyone he can, particularly in their moment of grieving and pain. He leads choirs, he volunteers for every possible charity, and he may be a closeted homosexual — if he does date, no one knows about it.
Marjorie Nugent (Shirley Maclaine) is as universally despised as Bernie is loved. She is a cranky old woman, mean to everyone, and miserly with the money with her late husband left her. She never has a nice thing to say to anyone, and she has no family who want to talk to her except via lawyers as they sue her to get at their inheritance.
Bernie, by Richard Linklater, is the true story of how Bernie and Marjorie meet and become friends, and how Bernie ends up murdering Marjorie and hiding her body. The absolute best thing about this movie is that all of the interviews with the townspeople of Carthage apparently are real, actual interviews — those are the real townspeople giving their memories of Bernie and Marjorie. A couple of these people end up filming scenes with the actors and they are all very good. I would, in fact, credit the director with an amazing touch here: these people are by far and away the best part of this movie.
Darin and I split on how we felt about this movie, which we both had reservations about. Darin said he had no idea who he’d recommend this movie to or why (except for the interviews), because it’s so weird: how are we supposed to feel about this guy who murdered someone and then hid her body?
My problem was that I couldn’t get past Jack Black in the title role.
The movie opens with one interview after another about how wonderful and sweet and kind and caring Bernie was. When Jack Black shows up, my initial reaction was, “But you know he’s playing y’all, right?” Black actually does a very good job as Bernie — he doesn’t mug at all, he sings very earnestly and sweetly, and he plays Bernie as very soft and caring. I just didn’t believe him in the role of a selfless, supportive, wimpy guy. I kept expecting him to break character or do a double-take or whatever. So the spell never worked on me and I couldn’t quite understand this character.
But the townspeople are great. If you have any interest in seeing Bernie, I recommend it for them.