The surprisingly true story about Bernie, the local mortician in a small Texan town who befriended everybody, including Marjorie, the town’s wealthy, sourpuss widow. The catch is, after not being able to handle her demanding nature he kills her and keeps up the ruse in the town that she is still alive.
RT Rating: Audience 86% Critic 90%
Jack Black does a wonderful job of portraying this seemingly mild mannered man, Bernie. Under his gentle exterior I noticed such an extravagant performer yearning to come out like in his normal movies. This became apparent during his scenes where he sang and was on stage where it was supposed to come out. Jack Black certainly knows his comedic timing and how to create the dramatic irony this movie required. I laughed when I was supposed to and I became reasonably attached to his character which surprised me because of how the movie was laid out. I would definitely define this as one of his best performances, capturing this mans generosity and sweetness while also injecting a sincerity and comedic touch to this true story.
Although I commended Jack Black for his participation in creating the irony that made this black comedy so good, I can’t forget everybody else involved in this movie.
Matthew McConaughey as the eccentric Danny Buck, the man who tried to stick to the law and convict Bernie no matter how nice of a man he was. The quips that he brought to his character, and the stereotypical Texan he does so well, were all classic traits of McConaughey and I enjoyed them all. After he ventures out of his documentary setting he gains a bigger role in the movie. He was one of the main moral positions of the movie and provides the ability for the movie to raise the questions it needs to.
Shirley MacLaine shines as the conniving, mean, old widow. Unfortunately, there are few opportunities for a truly dynamic expansion of her character. For this movie to work Marjorie must be the evil old woman all along, and although at the beginning you see possibilities for the movie to delve into why she has the attitude that she does, it fails to continue along that path.
This movie feels like a documentary because of the casual interviews from the townsfolk that we see. As previously mentioned, I was surprised at my connection to Bernie. Not so much because it is Jack Black who was the performer, or because of the character, but because of how this movie was done. As a documentary where we see clips of Bernie (and later Marjorie) and then cut to sections of interviews with townspeople that comment on Bernie, the town, Marjorie, and the crime I wouldn’t expect to feel much emotion toward the main character. Not when I go into the movie knowing that he will kill an old widow. But I guess I was surprised by many parts of this movie. I never doubted that Black would pull off a dramatic role, but I don’t think I expected such a good performance.
This movie provides such an interesting question. Should Bernie be convicted for the murder of the “evil” woman as one person says in the movie, or should he be acquitted because of the kind acts he performs for the community?
I am happy that the jury found him guilty for the murder of Marjorie. Especially after reading certain articles about the real Barnie and Marjorie. It’s not surprising that the movie made a clearer distinction between Bernie and Marjorie, but it just feels different after reading that.
My Rating: 8.5/10
I would definitely suggest watching it if you are one who enjoys the black comedy but a reminder that this is not like normal Jack Black comedies. This is not a movie that you will laugh yourself silly in, you won’t come out with a big smile on your face, and you may have some thinking to do at the end.
What did you think of the movie?