Film: Bernie (2011)
Cast includes: Jack Black (The School of Rock), Matthew McConaughey (The Lincoln Lawyer), Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment)
Director: Richard Linklater (Fast Food Nation, The School of Rock)
Genre: Dark Comedy | Crime (104 minutes)
Bernie would settle for nothing less than perfection when it came to "cosmetizing, dressing and casketing" the deceased. But it wasn't just his dedication to "final procedures" that made Bernie so popular... "he was a real people person." When Don Leggett was looking for an assistant funeral director, Bernie had such a "magnetic personality, I hired him over the phone... I really hit the jackpot with Bernie." "Bernie was about the most popular man in Carthage." As popular as Bernie was, few would have predicted that Bernie could soften the heart of Marjorie Nugent. But after her husband was laid to rest, Bernie did what Bernie always did... visiting the widows. He regularly dropped by her house bringing flowers and little gifts. He must have worn her down because she finally invited him in. And after she attended an art festival with Bernie, Marjorie began to thaw.
That's not to say Marjorie was universally loved, but thanks to Bernie's influence, Marjorie was going to church regularly and even taking some exotic vacations... with Bernie, of course. One person who doesn't speak about Bernie in glowing terms is Carthage's DA, Danny Buck Davidson. "I'm not saying he was light in his loafers, but Bernie had a tendency to hold on to men's hands a little too long... if you know what I mean." When Mrs. Nugent decided to redo her will, she bequeathed her entire estate to Bernie and gave him power of attorney. Somehow, that's when Marjorie's attitude began to revert. She became "demanding and condescending," especially with Bernie. "Her nose was so high, she could'a drowned in a rainstorm." "Bernie was so nice, but he just couldn't take it any more."
In a series of interviews, townsfolk enthusiastically sing Bernie's praises as they reluctantly reveal details about how Bernie shot Marjorie Nugent in the back four times with an armadillo rifle. "There's people in town, honey, who'd shot her for $5." Based on a true story, the film feels like a documentary. The interviews are so real that we're not quite sure at first if we're supposed to laugh. Hollywood luster is conspicuously absent on this film... and that's one of its most appealing qualities. Matthew McConaughey, for example, playing Danny Buck, is so convincing we almost don't recognize McConaughey. Jack Black as Bernie will win you over. (And I haven't even mentioned the singing and dancing.) An article in Texas Monthly magazine by Skip Hollandsworth inspired the film. Steeped in Texas eccentricities, the film ironically does something Bernie himself warned future morticians against... "You cannot have grief tragically become comedy."
4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
The most lovable murderer Texas has ever known
Distribution: Mainstream limited release & Art house
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure entertainment
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You may also want to read about:
The Lincoln Lawyer
Charlie Wilson's War