Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey, Brady Coleman, Richard Robichaux
Written by: Richard Linklater and (also based on his article in Texas Monthly) Skip Hollandsworth
Running Time: 104 mins
Release date: 26th April 2013
It has taken almost two years for Richard Linklater’s small-town black comedy to hit the UK but was it worth the wait? You bet it was. Bernie is a delicious tale based on a true story that sees the re-teaming of Linklater with his The School Of Rock star, Jack Black, in the best role of his career.
Bernie Tiede is the nicest man in Carthage, East Texas. An expert mortician who is determined to look after everyone he meets, especially taking care of the elderly widows. When the town’s most miserable woman, the wealthy Marjorie Nugent becomes just one of those widows, Bernie pays several visits to her and eventually his kindness wins her over and they become almost inseparable. The testing Ms Nugent starts playing on Bernie. She doesn’t allow him to do anything unless he is on her beck and call. Even though Marjorie has made Bernie her benefactor of her estate. Even the nicest man in town can be pushed too far.
Linklater’s comedy, based on the strange but true story of Bernie Tiede is one of those films that might not have you laughing out loud but is funny in the characters, situations and the oddity of the story. Bernie is a highly religious person who just wants to bring love and joy to everyone he meets. He is a pillar of the community but even he loses control.
Played out in three acts, the first we learn about the generous and gentle Bernie, the second the relationship of Bernie and Marjorie and the final act, where the film really takes flight, the aftermass of Bernie’s actions, Linklater uses testimonial from the locals, as if this is a docu-drama, to play out the tale and it works really well, having shots of Bernie’s life interspersed with people saying how lovely he was and how hideous she was.
The film is crammed with interesting performances. Matthew McConaughey continuing his slow rise back from the depth of rom-com hell with another quirky performance as power hungry District Attorney Danny Buck. Shirley MacLaine, who has recently made a career playing cantankerous old women, does it again as the nasty, demanding Marjorie.
The film, however, belongs to Jack Black. Playing completely against type, Black is an absolute delight as Bernie, a man who would rather give to his town and the locals instead of himself. He is charming, caring and just a genuinely likeable character and Black brings that all to the screen. He also is given some very different songs to perform than his usual rock orientated material, a highlight is Black performing Seven-Six Trombones from The Music Man. Black won a Golden Globe nomination and deservedly so. He hasn’t been this good since School Of Rock.
This isn’t a film that jumps out at you and bites you. It’s slow moving yet incredibly satisfying and while the big blockbusters come at you from every angle, this one will probably hide away in the corner, quietly making a few friends. It deserves to make loads of friends as this is a joyous black comedy that shows that even the smaller movies can be just as good, if not better, than those big expensive ones. And if you are a fan of Jack Black, this is one you must surely not miss.