First Hit: Jack Black is amazing and will be considered for an Oscar next year.
This is based on a true story in a small place called Carthage, TX.
It is about a helpful, kind, community oriented assistant funeral director named Bernie Tiede (played by Black) who comes to town and transforms it in small ways. Everyone, to him, deserves the best. And he does his best work on dead people for their funeral.
When Marjorie Nugent’s (played by Shirley MacLaine) husband dies, Bernie does his best to cheer her up. However, this is a tall task because everyone knows both Marjorie and her now deceased husband were rich mean people – probably she more than he. She is despised by everyone, including her family.
Her grandchildren tried to sue her for money after their grandfathers’ death and she wouldn’t budge. She found her family to be ungrateful and misguided people who only wanted to take from her what she owned. Bernie, through kind persistence, became her friend and over time they began to travel together as well as spend a lot of time together.
The film does serve up the question as to whether they were intimate lovers and one never knows. The truth is not really known and therefore the film is honest in presenting both possible sides. Why Bernie shot Marjorie, I’m not sure Bernie really knows, except that he felt caged by his own giving in his friendship to Marjorie.
Lastly, the cutaways to townsfolk are beyond funny. The quips, comments, and thoughts about Bernie, Marjorie, and them as a couple are simply hilarious. Although at times I felt like I was the only one laughing out loud and hard, there were plenty of times, I was joined by others in the audience.
This is one truly funny dark comedy, the sad part is that it actually happened.
Black is extraordinary and deserves to be considered for an Oscar for this performance. He is amazing, believable, and his obvious talents in singing and comedy are fully apparent. MacLaine is very good and holds the mean disposition very well. Her subtle shift towards being human at times is small and very controlled. And although she does share a smile and some joy as time moves on, the deepening of her controlling nature over Bernie bubbles in full force as time moves on. Matthew McConaughey plays the DA who prosecutes Bernie. His natural homespun Texas charm and sideways quips are on full display here. For all the actors who played townsfolk – a grand hurrah!!! You were great. Skip Hollandsworth and Richard Linklater wrote a sparkling funny script, while Linklater’s direction brought all this together in a very funny and interesting way.
Overall: There is controversy with this film, which only adds to its irrepressible humor and charm.