Swift shot: Jack Black almost saved this freak-show of a poorly edited farce based on factual events. Richard Linklater’s style is intact, but it is not something I care for personally. Credit to him for making it near impossible to discern if these were actors or real interviewees – the professional actors did a tremendous job blending in with the Carthage, Texas yokels. Matthew McConaughey being the blatant exception; his overacting confused the overall identity of this film. Was this a typical over-the-top Jack Black comedy, or was it something else? Black teetered on the edge the whole film, but McConaughey jumped into the snake pit of lunacy with both scuffed bottom, cowboy boots intact and confused the whole film with his antics and bad hair.
Bernie (Jack Black) enters Carthage, Texas literally singing the whole way. He’s more than a mortician, he is a gentle, giving creature of God who truly believes his calling is assisting families as their loved ones go to meet their creator in Heaven. At first glance, and when you realize this is based on an actual case in Texas, you roll your eyes at the caricature of such an oddly put together person – I mean, no one is a saint. And truly, with Bernie, while he is a true believer, he is no match for pure evil in the guise of the town’s feared and loathed Mrs. Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). After her husband becomes a client of Bernie’s (i.e. he dies) Bernie does what he always does for grieving widows, checks up on them. He finally enters her good graces and begins his odd relationship with the town’s richest widow.
Eventually Bernie becomes more than just a willing pet to Mrs. Nugent, he becomes a platonic slave of sorts, after she fires her whole staff and takes Bernie on lavish trips around the world and unbeknownst to Bernie, she even changes her will to cut out her family and leave everything to Bernie. So, when Bernie finally snaps, his choice makes no sense. But, as one person put it in the film, when you have pure good and pure evil so close together, something is going to give. You will have to see Bernie, if you can find it in theaters, to find out how everything plays out. It wasn’t very funny, it was a bit charming and the overall build-up to the final scene was decent. But I just couldn’t in all honesty recommend this to many people. Sure, it is a real “critics” movie – but the substance was lacking whilst the acting was impeccable. So, if you want a wonderfully acted film that lacks true identity, look no further than the oddity that is . . . Bernie.