For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Alternate Love Story Movies, here’s a review of Bernie (2011) by Tom of Digital Shortbread
Thanks again to Abbi of Abbiosbiston.com for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Tim of FilmFunkel We will be reviewing our favorite Found Footage movies. In order to get a better idea as to what this genre might include, check out this post by Tim.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of December by sending them to TisTheFFSeason@movierob.net Try to think out of the box! Great choice Tim!
Let’s see what Tom thought of this movie:
Number of times seen: 1 (theater)
Brief Synopsis: In small-town Texas, an affable mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow, though when she starts to become controlling, he goes to great lengths to separate himself from her grasp.
My take on it: Bernie is one of only a select few Richard Linklater films I have seen, but I have to say it’s a gem and one I suspect will continue flying under the radar considering this is the director who came up with things like Dazed and Confused, Boyhood, and The Before trilogy.
Film features a memorable performance from its lead, an atypically restrained, dry comedic turn from Jack Black who dispenses with the loud shouting and over-the-top antics in favor of genuine character building in service of a character-centric story that finds him becoming entwined with the prickly and manipulative Marjorie Nugent (played by Shirley MacLaine). The film is based on a true story, if you can believe it, though it’s not difficult to imagine the creative licenses Linklater took in bringing this small-town tale to the big screen.
Bernie may not necessarily feature a ‘romantic’ relationship at it’s heart, so perhaps this doesn’t quite qualify for this month’s GG theme but what it does have going is an atypical friendship that blossoms between Bernie Tiede (the most awkward last name to pronounce in the world) and the aforementioned Ms. Nugent, a woman who becomes increasingly difficult to tolerate as the film plods on.
Throughout, she takes advantage of Bernie’s kindheartedness and his generosity, using him as if he were her own slave — a term that might seem strong to the uninitiated but one that seems fitting once you’ve experienced what he goes through for yourself. What starts off as a pleasant enough exchange of favors evolves into an oppressive trap for the hapless man.
I suppose in some ways this could qualify as a love story in the loosest sense of the term. As Bernie continues doing things for the increasingly demanding Ms. Nugent we often wonder what it is that compels Bernie to stay. It gets to a point where it’s a little hard to believe he’s doing this simply to be a good samaritan. And on the other end, has Ms. Nugent got something for this odd little fellow? Is this how she expresses her feelings towards someone she likes? As we watch him suffer at her hands, the only thing that really makes sense is deep down inside, he truly cares for this terrible person.
The development becomes a huge source of frustration for viewers and it may not suit everyone’s tastes as Ms. Nugent becomes increasingly more demanding (which might as well be translated as ‘annoying’), yet there’s no denying this is without a doubt one of the strangest relationships I have seen in a film in some time. If the dynamic between them isn’t born out of love perhaps it’s still accurate to label it as a kind of an affair because that’s the only explanation I can think of for someone willing to go to these lengths just to make someone happy.
Bottom Line: Bernie is an odd film that benefits from Jack Black’s odd but refreshingly restrained performance. Film pivots around this relationship he establishes with the mean old Ms. Nugent, a character that’s brought to life wonderfully by Shirley MacLaine. Does this count as a romantic relationship? I’m not sure exactly but I don’t know how else to really describe it.
Rating: Globe worthy