Hello everyone, and welcome to 111 Archer Avenue. What started as a film review blog has become my online judgment forum. I will review the occasional movie or DVD, post an interesting trailer, critique a newly-read book, talk about sports, and share my thoughts and opinions on random issues. You can also follow me on Twitter (@OlieCoen) or check out my work on DVDTalk.com. Thank you and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Movie Review - Bernie

Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey
Year: 2011

When you hear that Jack Black is in a movie you expect a comedy.  You expect slapstick, some over-dramatic singing, and a chubby man being goofy.  And while Bernie was technically a comedy, it was a mighty dark one, which surprised me.  I never expected a morbid story about funeral directors, old widows, and effemanent Texans.  But that's exactly what I got, plus one more thing; a true story.  That I definitely didn't see coming.  So Bernie, in essence, is a real life crime drama starring Jack Black that's part dark comedy part biography.  Strange, yes, but also strong, a film that will take you by surprise, make you laugh, and depress you all within 90 minutes.

This is the true story of Bernie Tiede, a small town mortician who made a big impact on his community in a variety of ways.  He revolutionized the local funeral home, led many church services, gave free tax advice, was heavily involved in area theatre, consoled the distraught at their loved one's burials, and generally became the most likeable man in Carthage, Texas.  Bernie's specialty was befriending the grieving widows of deceased (and rich) old men.  His closest relationship was to Marjorie Nugent, a disliked millionaire who didn't have a friend in the world.  That is, until Bernie came along.  The two quickly became bosom pals; going on trips, spending every minute together, lavishly buying anything they wanted.  And so when Marjorie became sick, Bernie was understandably upset.  But when she hadn't been seen in Carthage for months, the local law became quite suspicious, turning to Bernie for answers as to where exactly she had gone.

It's still hard for me to believe that this movie is based on real life, that Jack Black interviewed the real Bernie to help create his character.  It takes the film to another level, something more than just a dark comedy.  Credit to Jack Black for portraying this man so well, for crafting a likeable yet slightly crazy persona that audiences can both root for and hate.  He was the highlight of the film, with Shirley MacLaine actually being a little annoying and Matthew McConaughey being completely replaceable.  The film started out like a Christopher Guest mockumentary; fake interviews, hilarious local hicks, absurd characters.  It got bleaker in the middle, slowed down a bit, but ended pointing up, with an enjoyable climax and a finish that makes you think.  Bernie was a surprisingly good movie, one with a fascinating story to tell, well acted, very funny, and easily recommendable.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

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