Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bernie (2011): Disappointing Attempt at Dark Comedy

I like some of Richard Linklater's movies. And I also like Jack Black's acting in many of his films and even in the rock video game titled BrĂ¼tal Legend. I also think Black has done a very good job portraying the main character in Bernie. But in spite of this and contrary to other reviewers I do not consider Bernie a good movie. And even the presence of Shirley MacLaine or Matthew McConaughey cannot save it.

Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is an undertaker in a small Texas town. He constantly smiles, has a lot of talents and is always ready to help people. Everybody likes Bernie and he loves everybody. Bernie is great in his work as he is in everything else. He begins a friendship with a wealthy sour widow named Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) and both of them become almost inseparable. Bernie accompanies Marjorie in her daily routines as well as in her vacations. Marjorie shifts from a bad tempered widow to a happy old lady and in the process she assumes Bernie is her possession. One day he accidentally kills her. And then the big question is: Will the skilful Bernie be able to make dead Marjorie looking alive and outwit the townsfolk including unsympathetic district attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey)?

The movie tells the story of Bernie through lots of interviews and the narration has kind of a documentary feel mixed with folklore flavor. To a certain point this actually looks interesting and it is acceptable as an artistic device. The problem is it turns less and less attractive towards the end and the film becomes pretty boring. Nothing new and surprising happens and the movie lacks a real climax. There is not a single character having to overcome any serious obstacle. The events just take place in this movie.

It seems the American audience is in general more favorable to Bernie, probably because the film is based on a true story that has happened in the USA. The movie is supposed to be a dark comedy but it is not quite funny. Many of the jokes are artificial. The same is valid for the whole narrative in fact. Bernie could be a mockery but somehow the entertaining element is lost and after the ending I was more disappointed than satisfied.

The acting is Ok. Jack Black fits well in the role of the chubby and sweet Bernie. Shirley MacLaine does not have a lot to say but nevertheless she easily creates the image of a pretty annoying old lady. Despite being a law representative Matthew McConaughey succeeds to be less adorable than universal favorite turned criminal Bernie. What dooms this movie most is its script and direction. Richard Linklater has been quite good in the making of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset but his re-creation of the story in Bernie won't find place on the list of my favorite films.


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