The best two things about “Bernie” are Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey. Both capture the real people they represent and also adapt life to the big screen. Based on real events, “Bernie” follows the title character Bernie Tiede as he attempts to navigate a bad situation. Jack Black plays the hilariously quirky Bernie who is a master of all trades, especially when it comes to wooing rich widows. Because much of this film is set in a small town of East Texas, it was an absolute joy to watch at SXSW. In fact, I think many of the jokes might be lost on people not familiar with the area and its culture. However, regardless of your geographic location, “Bernie” is a laugh out loud black comedy.
Who is Bernie? A series of titles take the audience on a journey through Bernie’s life. While it is a narrative and the interviews are staged, many of the people who appear in the film actually did know the real Bernie. He is presented as a kind, giving, thoughtful and caring man who could do no wrong to no body. He is the assistant funeral director at the funeral home in Carthage, TX but he is so much more than that. He is a singer, a cook and a comforter to widows to the point where some in town speculated that he had a not so appropriate relationship with some of them.
Was it romantic? He develops a particularly close relationship with Marjorie Nugent (played by the always-brilliant Shirley MacLaine) when her husband dies. They go on vacations, to the opera, to dinner every night until Bernie become more personal assistant than personal friend.
Was Bernie Gay? Another title introduces us to the other side of speculation. While many people have suspected that he was a homosexual, the film never offers us a concrete answer. In fact, much of Bernie’s true motivations and feelings are left secret.
“Bernie” is a fascinating look at the human condition. While it is a different kind of comedy, it is interesting and funny and definitely worth the trip.
Opens Friday, April 27th, 2012.
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey