I love it when I’m right! For years I have been defending Jack Black’s talent in the face of many dreadful film choices, but here comes a flick that finally gives him the scope he needs to flex his dramatic / comedic muscles and (as always) his vocal chords! Typically, it’s a film that hardly anyone will see…. check out the review below!
Based on a quirky true story that’ll have you rolling your eyes saying “only in America!”, Bernie tells of a kind-hearted, devout Christian funeral director from a small town in Texas. A very popular, active member of the church and the community, Bernie (Jack Black) suddenly strikes up an odd friendship with a wealthy widow (Shirley MacLaine) who is disliked by all who know her.
As time passes, Bernie finds himself utterly smothered by the controlling old bat, who won’t even permit him to continue his volunteer work. In a fleeting moment of insanity Bernie shoots her dead. Horrified by his sin, Bernie soldiers on giving excuses to explain his victim’s sudden absence, and starts spending her money on various charitable deeds.
Bernie is a bizarre little film drenched in small ‘backwater’ town feel, gospel music and a strange take on death. It’s safe to say this ain’t gonna be everyone’s cup of tea, with some of the straight-faced, subtle humour no doubt going over some viewers’ heads. But in reality, this flick is a brilliant case-study of Bible Belt communities, teetering between heart-felt and witty. You can’t help but wonder if director Richard Linklater is taking the piss or placing such communities on a pedestal – either way, it made me laugh!
Based on a true story, the film is a mix of ‘mocumentary’ and narrative. The central plot is played out by a talented cast of actors, meanwhile the story is punctuated by inserts of real and blatantly honest interviews from quirky residents of the little Texas town whom actually knew Bernie. It results in a fascinating and funny snapshot of small-town, deep-south American culture.
The soundtrack is brimming with hymns and toe-tapping gospel numbers, many of which are sung by Jack Black. The cinematography is so simple, yet so effective: there is something about the film’s aesthetic that really adds to the overriding sense of ‘oddness’.
Jack Black is sensational in his role, playing the reserved, yet out-going, seemingly gay (yet possibly celibate) Bernie to perfection. Black spent considerable time with the real ‘Bernie’ and it appears his visiting hours have been spent wisely: every aspect of his characterization is intricately perfected yet seems so effortless.
Bernie sure tells of an incredible story. It’s one of those moives that make you realise just how crazy the world really is, but makes you love it even more because of it.
It’s a shame the small budget means the film will be on limited release (it only played on three screens in the whole of the USA on it’s opening weekend). Though it appears word of mouth will be Bernie‘s friend with the film growing to be shown on 200 screens within a month of it’s USA release.
Let us hope Australia lives up to it’s reputation as a strong cinema-attending population for this one!
Bernie is quirky and weird, but undeniably intelligent and funny, with a fabulous cast and genius director. Sure, some people ‘won’t get it’, but you can’t please everyone right? I award it 7 stars out of 10.
Bernie hits Aussie screens August 16th