Bernie review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
Jack Black isn’t a name that goes with serious dramas, with his star rating being elevated by movies like Tropic Thunder, a film that finds his running around half naked chasing after a literal mountain of heroin, body checking small children as he goes. However Bernie plays right into Black’s wheelhouse depicting a genuinely lovable saint of a man whose only real mistake is that he cannot respond to criticism, even undue criticism.
Bernie follows the small town life of Bernie (Jack Black), a funeral director who meets Marjorie (Shirley MacLaine), an elderly woman hated within the small town community but someone who Bernie comes to admire and even love. When she suddenly changes and starts manipulating and degrading him Bernie finds himself on a path that will find him in all sorts of trouble, trouble he never would have imagined
Directed by Richard Linklater, the creator of the Before trilogy, comes a tale of manipulation, be it Bernie’s subtle manipulation of his customers, Marjorie’s control of Bernie through intimidation and bullying or DA Danny Buck’s (Matthew McConaughey) influence over the hearts and minds of the public and the people of Carthage, the small town ripped apart by this depraved and all around odd true story.
Black nails the sickly sweet nature of Bernie making him a wonderfully vivid character, a pure soul chipped away at over time, one who does bad things but retains the faith that pushed him to become the man he was in the first place. MacLaine works well with Black as the reprehensible Marjorie but her character lacks reason or logic, she does things for the sake of the story, odd when it seems everyone in the town of Carthage has an opinion of her. Her motivations for transforming into Cruella DeVille are unclear, her actions nonsensical and her all around demeanour proving a sticking point for this delicious tale.
While watching Bernie deal with his own personal trials and tribulations and the events he caused the film is confusing and lacks an ending, it just concludes with the idea that Bernie at heart was a good person, a man darkened by Marjorie, a woman who will always remain an enigma thanks to some unwelcome and poor characterisation