Jack Black is a lucky man. He has made some bad, bad movies as anyone who has seen Gulliver’s Travels can attest!
But sometimes actors and actresses make bad movies and move on, sometimes they make bad movies and continue to make bad movies, slowly sinking into oblivion, or SyFy movies, one of the two.
Black was quickly becoming a parody of himself, he was becoming the new Jim Carey, back when Jim Carey didn’t even like Jim Carey.
However, he has hopefully turned things around with this movie, Bernie. This is without doubt the role of Jack Black’s career. It’s difficult at first to get around that this is Jack Black in the role, it is a comedy movie, but it also requires him to actually act, not just prat about a bit.
The film is based on the true story of Bernie Tiede. He was an assistant funeral director in a small town in Texas and was much loved by the town. He sang in the choir, taught Sunday School and was generally the nice man about town.
He would often strike up a relationship with the widows of the town when their men passed on. He would visit them for, sometimes, weeks afterwards checking up on them, making sure they were ok.
One particular widow, Marjorie Nugent, becomes particularly fond of Bernie. Nugent however was hated by the town. Not just by the town but by her own family. We’re talking about a woman who was sued by her own grandchildren, she was described by many as evil and wicked, or as one woman puts it in the film “Marjorie Nugent’s nose was so high, she’d drown in a rainstorm.”
Richard Linklater directs and co-writes the movie (he previously did Slacker, School of Rock, Fast Food Nation, A Scanner Darkly and many more) and he does so very well.
The movie is filmed in a documentary style with Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Shirley MacLaine and a few others acting the scenes out interjected with interviews with real towns-folk, people who actually knew both Bernie and Marjorie.
As I said before this is a comedy, a black comedy, deadpan in the literal sense but it will make you laugh. In case you are one of these people who doesn’t think laughing at something like this is right, you should read this article about the death and the movie by Joe Rhodes. Rhodes’ mother was Marjorie Nugent’s sister, she was Aunt Marge.
I just can’t tell you how good this film is. Black is great, he can actually act, sure the material is first class. This is, after all, a true story, some of the dialogue has been changed but the bits are real, this actually happened. Even Black would struggle to mess this up.
There was a time when I just wanted Jack Black to stick to the music, Tenacious D are very funny and he can sing, he sings a lot in the movie. Now however, I might even dare to say I’m looking forward to a Jack Black movie and I didn’t think I’d be saying that after the tripe that was Gulliver’s Travels.