Friday, April 27, 2012

Movie Review: "Bernie"

Bernie tells the unbelievable true story of an effeminate Texas mortician named Bernie Tiede, portrayed by Jack Black.  What's so brilliant about the film is that it's shot like a documentary, yet it's entirely scripted, lending the film both a realistic authenticity, but stylistic flourishes not found in typical docs.

Bernie was the nicest guy on Earth, everyone loved him.  He produced the local community theater, led worship at the church, and was friend to all, including the meanest old lady in town, Marjorie, played to over-the-top perfection by Shirley MacLaine.  However, soon Bernie learned all about Marjorie and she began to wear on his nerves, and in a momentary lapse he shoots her in the back.  I should say, this film is a comedy, albeit a black comedy in the vein of the Coen Brothers' films, but a comedy all the same.  Even in the scene when Bernie shoots Marjorie, I found myself laughing out loud thanks to the performance of Jack Black and his reaction upon realizing what he's done.

As Bernie Tiede, Jack Black is very dialed down.  Sure, he has a funny effeminate accent, but when you hear the real Bernie speak in interviews from real-life, you realize how spot on Jack Black was.  The thing is, Jack Black uses all of his considerable talents in this one film.  He proves that he is a good singer, and not just adept at doing his heavy metal thing with Tenacious D.  Jack Black surprisingly sings hymns and Broadway showtunes real well, showing vocal range, but he also shows range in his acting chops.  He plays everything seriously and just lets the absurdity of the situations be what makes it all funny rather than him hamming it up.  This is a very contained performance that shows genuine maturation in Black as an actor, not as a comedian, and makes me intrigued to see what else he can do.

I just love Bernie.  It's one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long, long time.  It's politically incorrect, and that's what makes it all the funnier.  Huge kudos to director Richard Linklater for another superb experience.

I give Bernie an A+

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