Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Black at His Best — Bernie

A mild-mannered mortician gets trapped with a cruel, demanding woman and the worst results. 

ACTING: 3 (Jack Black: 5)
OVERALL: Recommended

Read "How My Aunt Ended Up In the Deep Freeze", an account of the true story by family member Joe Rhodes in The New York Times

Jack Black is nothing if not talented, and this is by far his best film. He absolutely shines. What is remarkable is that he remains in character, never resorting to any wild slapstick or improvisation sometimes present in his other roles. He carries off the role of a light-hearted, generous, hymn-singing community leader with flair and grace and not a hint of self-consciousness.

Bernie is not a story about double-identity! That would have been very clich é. We have all seen that story before, and it is ubiquitous on television series.

What makes this film interesting is watching the gun-slinging D.A. Buck Davidson (McConaughey) try to make it into a story about double-identity. But Bernie is not a person with a dark alter-ego, any more so than the rest of us. Linklater's use of actual townspeople in interviews lends freshness to the story and also gives one a sense of having visited the place. These interviews also round out the portrait of Bernie as someone essentially harmless, who may have gotten the wrong end of the rod in court.

This is a hilarious movie about a dark subject, but handled with a deft touch.
See the film; you'll enjoy the ride.


What do you think?

Given the fact that Bernie's character, and his heartfelt confession, does his conviction seem fair? What does it say about the townspeople that they would have acquitted Bernie if given the chance? What does it say about our justice system that his trial was moved?

The film alluded to Bernie's being gay. Do you think Buck may have had this as a motive for pursuing a murder charge, rather than something more lenient? What do you think the film was trying to get at here? Why is this facet of Bernie's character left "in between the lines" for the viewer to pick up on?

What do you think of this film?

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