In a small town people will always suspect the worst of someone. But they’ll also suspect the best.
I would have never even thought to give the film Bernie a second glance had I not watched the 2013 Golden Globes. When announcing the nominees for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy, Jack Black’s picture flashed across the screen. I am quite a Jack Black fan and I believe that he is an underrated actor that doesn’t take roles that show he can really act. The moment I saw he had been nominated for a Golden Globe I made not of what movie it was for. Finding it was on Netflix Instant Queue, I decided to watch it and was quite surprised by the uniquely entertaining film.
Based on a true story, the film is not a full blown mockumentary but has many elements of one. The film tells the story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a man from Carthage Texas who is loved by one an all. An assistant funeral director, Bernie is also heavily involved in the church and the community. When her husband passes away, Bernie takes an interest in Marjorie “Marge” Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). A mean old lady whose family has tried to sue her and has lost all of her friends, the only person Marge is happy around is Bernie. For a while Bernie and Marge get along, spending every second together and going on trips. As time goes on, Marge starts to take Bernie for granted and starts to see him as her property.
Running the nicest man in the world to the bone and eventually to insanity, Bernie has no choice but to kill her. Prosecuted by Danny Buck Davison (Matthew McConaughey), the case makes history when it is moved from Carthage because the people of the town loved Bernie so much that Davidson did not believe the jury would make an impartial decision.
There were a number of things about this film that surprised me, the first being the fact that it was based on a true story. When something is based on a true story, it always makes you wonder how truthful the events in the film actually are. Jack Black’s portrayal of the charismatic Bernie Tiede had to be somewhat accurate because it was very difficult to dislike the character. He is famous for being the subject of one of the only cases to have a change of venue due to fear that the jury would be too biased in favor of the murderer.
Shirley MacClaine is one of my favorite female actresses and it does not surprise me that she was great in this film. Perfectly playing Marge, who can only be described as a bitch, MacClaine steals many of the scenes she is in. By the time Bernie actually kills her, you dislike her so much that its hard to feel bad for her death. What surprised me was Jack Black’s performance. The comedy came easy for the veteran but a number of scenes required Black to delve into drama and he easily rose to the occasion to make Bernie a well rounded and well done character.
This film was much funnier than I expected it to be, attacking what could have been seen as a very dark issue and making it oddly amusing. A lot of the comedy comes from the interviews that are interspersed through the story, showing the people of Carthage talking about the town, Bernie and the trial. As seems to be the case with many of my This Week on Netflix choices, you must like dark comedy to enjoy Bernie. I give this film a 7 out of 10. It is a funny film with a compelling subject with acting that will surprise and draw you in.