If you think that Bernie is just another Jack Black comedy, better think again. I mean, I can understand why you would think that when you look at the poster and see him in that classic JB pose. However, this is a far more serious and thought-provoking affair. And no matter what you think about the actor, it tells an important and all too real story of love, loss, and loneliness. A true character study that’s very easy to watch and follow but hard to untangle.
For me, ever since Pick Of Destiny, Jack Black’s career has been steadily declining. It peaked with that awful, awful crowning achievement called Gulliver’s Travels. Granted there has been a couple of movies where he was decent, but not in a lead role. Well, after seeing Bernie, one thing is for sure, JB is back! He finally came to terms with his acting and the type of roles that he plays. Not goofing around and completely immersing himself in the role, he gave one of his best performances to date.
Bernie is just one of those guys that everybody likes, with his unconditional love, calm demeanor, and desire to help everyone. He moves to a small town in Texas, where he gets a job at a local mortuary. He excels at it, making art out of putting makeup on dead people for their funerals. Without a wife or a girlfriend he is well-sought merchandise in this small town, but one faithful day he meets Marjorie Nugent, an extremely wealthy widow and the two of them don’t hit it off.
Bernie tells a story of an ordinary guy and an ordinary girl living in an ordinary small town. It’s very relatable and immersive, and Linklater’s direction was simply stellar. After all, he’s the guy behind some of my favorite movies like Dazed and Confused and School of Rock. A guy who’s willing to experiment, as he did with A Scanner Darkly, adapting Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name.
Shirley MacLaine, an extraordinary actress with her phenomenal performance as Marjorie created that link with Jack Black that made this movie so good. Not to mention all the other actors, some of which are actual residents of Carthage. People who actually knew the real Marjorie and Bernie. This is a movie that will make you think and question your own life. It will do so by examining the life of another regular person and the situation they found themselves in. And we haven’t even touched the morality issue.
Finally, if you’re looking for movies like Bernie check out Plots with a View or Death at the Funeral. And make sure to watch the original, 2007 version and not the remake from 2010 as it is quite bad.
Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Skip Hollandsworth, Richard Linklater
Cast: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey, Brady Coleman, Richard Robichaux
Fun Facts: Jack Black met with the real Bernie Tiede in Telford Unit State Prison. Shirley MacLaine also spoke with Tiede over the phone.