Comedy/Crime, Rated M, 95mins.
Starring: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine & Matthew McConaughey.
In the tiny town of Carthage, Texas, assistant funeral director Bernie Tiede is one of the towns most beloved residents. Bernie befriends Marjorie Nugent, a sour and affluent older widow. Soon Bernie and Marjorie become inseparable and Marjorie becomes very dependent on Bernie, stifling his extroverted personality. Bernie is forced to quit his job and philanthropic activities in the community, leaving him deflated. Then things suddenly get better for Bernie and he seems his old generous self, while Marjorie is mysteriously absent. When Marjorie is discovered to have been dead for months Bernie Tiede is charged with murder, to the great surprise of the local community.
Bernie sees ‘School of Rock’s’ Jack Black and director Richard Linklater back together again on a very different film. Based on a real murder case the film uses a semi-documentary approach, interviewing the townspeople of Carthage about the most beloved man around town, Bernie Tiede, sure he may have murdered someone but that doesn’t dampen their love for the man. The characters in the interviews are great and it’s probably for this reason that they wanted to use everyone, however this does tend to get a bit repetitive at times. Jack Black probably gives the performance of his career so far, his slightly creepy and saccharine sweet assistant funeral director is a great character. This is showcased beautifully in the opening scene where he instructs a class on presenting the recently deceased for their funerals, and as everyone says, Bernie makes you look great in death. Bernie’s do gooder nature leads him to a wealthy elderly widow Marjorie Nugent ironically the town’s most hated resident and together they strike up a relationship that leads to Bernie’s generosity being taken advantage of, that is until Marjorie Nugent goes missing.
Bernie is a quirky character study, not only on Bernie and Marjorie but the townspeople and their reactions to Bernie’s charges. It would seem like the only sane person in the town is the sheriff, Matthew McConaughey, but for anyone who’s seen the film ‘Killer Joe’ this might not sit quite right.
Review out of five stars: ★★★1/2
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