Jack Black turns in the best performance of his career in Bernie, where he plays a friendly, possibly gay mortician who befriends a cranky old woman but then, with a momentary burst of insanity, shoots her dead. Funny, interesting and based on a true story, Bernie is a welcome surprise.
Shirley MacLaine plays Marjorie Nugent, a widow who hated everyone until she took a liking to harmless Bernie Tiede. The two become friends and possible more – despite a multi-decade age difference – but Marjorie soon becomes possessive of the younger man. One day he shoots her, then hides her body and goes on about his life, putting on a charade that Marjorie is still alive.
Bernie is less about the crime than it is the colorful set of characters director and co-writer Richard Linklater has compiled to tell his story. Partially told through faux interviews and the rest through standard narrative, Bernie is a quirky little movie that remains lighthearted despite the true-life murder at the film’s core.
Linklater’s work is terrific, but ultimately it is Jack Black’s tragically comical performance that makes the picture work. He’s not funny – at least not in your typical Jack Black way - and not at all similar to the typical Jack Black that some people, like me, have grown to despise, but he nails his role, a somewhat effeminate, always kindhearted character not unlike Eric Stonestreet’s bubbly Cameron in “Modern Family.”
Bernie may star Jack Black, but it is a terrifically acted and well acted movie that deserves a much larger audience than it has received.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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