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Death becomes him: Comic actor thrives in Bernie

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: , ,
 
Starring: , ,
 
Directed By:
 
Studio:
 
MPAA Rating:
 
Release Date: April 27, 2012
 
Length: 104 minutes
 
Directing
8.0


 
Plot
8.0


 
Acting
9.0


 
Cinematography
8.0


 
Total Score
8.3
8.3/ 10


 

Whoa


An actor who’s better known his comedic skills, Black is perfect for the role of Bernie.

No


This black comedy has received some criticism for making light of what is actually a very serious true story.


Bottom Line

Bernie was a pleasant surprise and one of the bright spots in the first half of the year–well worth seeking out.

0
Posted June 4, 2012 by

 
Full Review
 
 

Director Richard Linklater has made documentary-like films in the past. Two of his best-known early works – 1991’s Slacker and 1993’s Dazed and Confused–could have passed as documentaries. While his latest work, Bernie, isn’t a documentary per se, it’s based on a true story (the Texas Monthly article, “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas”).  And you could argue the source material here is as good as anything Linklater has come across in his 25-year career.

The film centers on Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a soft-spoken, good-natured and “confirmed bachelor” mortician who quickly wins over the citizens of Carthage shortly after moving to small Texas town. Bernie’s pleasant mannerisms give him an uncanny ability to comfort the grieving, and he works his charm on one Marge Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a wealthy old biddy known as the town Scrooge. Before long, the two start taking trips to Europe and other exotic places courtesy of Marge’s generosity. Bernie subsequently starts working part-time at the mortuary so that he can have more time to tend to Marge’s every need . . . and she has plenty of needs.

The possessive and demanding Marge runs the poor guy ragged as she gives him a pager, insisting Bernie whatever he is doing to accommodate her. Bernie begins to show signs of wear and is particularly dismayed when Marge fires her poor gardener for stealing when he was taking the lawnmower to have it fixed.

When Marge disappears, the local district attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey) immediately suspects Bernie had something to do with it. But he knows getting a conviction won’t be easy because the townspeople of Carthage overwhelmingly love and believe in the generous-with-other-people’s-money Bernie. The contrast between the popular opinion and reality makes for the film’s real tension. Linklater handles the material expertly and keeps that tension until the movie’s final scene.

A black comedy that has received some criticism for making light of what is actually a very serious true story, the film, which has echoes of the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece Fargo, provides an adroit mix of fact and fiction and includes interviews with many real-life townspeople who speak to Bernie’s kindness and generosity.

An actor who’s better known his comedic skills, Black is perfect for the role of Bernie. While some of his trademark snickering still occasionally comes through, he keeps his sarcastic tendencies in check and does a good job of singing religious hymns, too. McConaughey and MacLaine both deliver in their respective roles. But its the chorus of Carthage townspeople that keep the story moving and make the drama unraveling that much more real. Bernie is only playing at 300 theaters nationwide, but it’s one of the bright spots in the first half of the year and well worth seeking out.


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