BERNIE

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  • Carbon Based Lifeform
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    #61515

    A review from The New York Times

    April 26, 2012
    Movie Review

    A Small-Town Murder by Just the Nicest Guy

    By MANOHLA DARGIS

    “Bernie,” Richard Linklater’s gaudily vibrant, at times morbidly funny true-crime story, takes place in the East Texas town of Carthage, which, at the time when sweet Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) murdered sour Mrs. Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), had a population of 6,500. To judge from the movie and the Texas Monthly article
    that inspired it, nearly everyone in Carthage loved Bernie, including
    the minister who after the shooting preached that Bernie “needs to be
    with God, and he needs to know that we are with him.” The preacher
    didn’t say that Bernie needed to be in heaven to be with God. In the
    movie, at least, he seems to suggest that Carthage would do just fine.

    Given the town’s Bernie boosters, it’s no wonder.
    “Bernie” grew out of a corrosively comic 1998 article by Skip
    Hollandsworth that jumps with memorable Carthage facts and flavor: a
    store called Boot Scootin’ Western Wear; a diner sign reading, “You Kill
    It, I’ll Cook It”; and Cadillacs veering off the road when the wealthy
    old widows who drive them miss the brakes. This is where Bernie
    blossomed and would still be in bloom if some had their way. Push past
    the local color, though, as Mr. Linklater does, and this starts to look
    like what it was: a sordid, bleak tale about two lonely people drawn to
    each other like colliding planets.

    Working from his and Mr. Hollandsworth’s script, Mr.
    Linklater doesn’t lead with the bummer side of the story but instead
    sets a broad, slightly uncomfortable comic tone that makes it difficult —
    intentionally, I think — to know if you’re meant to be laughing or
    recoiling. (Both are right.) Mr. Black can be an almost insistently
    demanding presence, and the moment he cuts loose in the movie, belting
    out a gospel song as if it’s a show tune, and then the reverse, he pulls
    you in hard. So it’s telling that Mr. Linklater opens the movie with
    Bernie showing mortuary students how to prettify a corpse. As he stands
    before his audience, he registers as both a director and performer, and a
    bit like a happy Frankenstein reanimating the dead.

    The relationship between Bernie and Mrs. Nugent was
    unlikely, but almost everything seems improbable about this bouncy
    child-man. The story slides into place when Bernie motors into Carthage
    for the first time, checking messages on his Jesus-adorned phone.
    Equipped with a mortuary degree, a country smile and a delicate,
    straight-back walk that suggests a prancing pony, he lands a job at a
    funeral home. Because he’s equally attentive to the living and the dead,
    he soon becomes an indispensable member of the community, whether
    singing in church or comforting the grieving. The widows take a special
    liking to him as he solicitously escorts them from their husbands’
    graves like a gentleman caller, holding onto them in case they stumble.

    One day he takes the arm of one of the richest women
    in town, the newly widowed Marjorie Nugent. She doesn’t stumble — not
    at first anyway. She scowls at him when he later brings her sympathy
    flowers, and grimaces when he shows up with a gift basket. Ms. MacLaine,
    giving her face a strenuous, diverting workout, squares her jaw and
    tightly squinches her face, as if she were setting a spring trap and
    waiting for someone to take the bait. She looks battle ready, but
    there’s something hunted about Mrs. Nugent too, and both the actress and
    her director make certain you see the cracks in her defense and the
    woman — alone and lonely — that Bernie sees.

    The plot thickens ickily as Bernie and Mrs. Nugent
    become friendlier, a honeymoon period that Mr. Linklater, working with
    the cinematographer Dick Pope and the editor Sandra Adair, gives bright
    pop momentum. Bernie and Mrs. Nugent start going everywhere and doing
    everything together. He nudges the widow out of her solitary confinement
    so that she begins to enjoy what wealth brings, including Bernie’s
    attentions. There are lavish trips abroad, nights out and lots of nights
    in, as well as side-by-side spa massages. But as Bernie opens her
    world, Mrs. Nugent — out of fear, spite, pathology or plain meanness —
    tries to shrink his until he’s in her pocket. He doesn’t fit. It isn’t
    long before a district attorney, Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey, showboating amusingly), has a case.

    Throughout, Mr. Linklater inserts intertitles that
    announce his thematic categories (“Was Bernie Gay?”) and brief
    interviews (scripted and not) with Bernie boosters, some played by
    actual townspeople. They’re textual annotations of a particularly queasy
    kind, and the interviews jump off the screen because these characters
    let it humorously hang out — and, man, do they love Bernie. These are
    the town gossips as Greek chorus, yet while they’re funny, sort of,
    there’s also something oppressive about these busybodies. They all have a
    lot to say, but in real life when the bad times came, and two of their
    own began flailing, these ostensibly comic, colorful types were as mute
    as the stuffed animals that seem to loom from every Carthage wall and
    make this funny Texas town look like one big taxidermy exhibit.

    “Bernie” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Gun violence.

    Bernie

    Opens on Friday nationwide.

    Directed by Richard Linklater; written by Mr.
    Linklater and Skip Hollandsworth; director of photography, Dick Pope;
    edited by Sandra Adair; produced by Mr. Linklater and Ginger Sledge;
    released by Millennium Entertainment. In Manhattan at the Angelika Film
    Center, Mercer and Houston Streets, Greenwich Village. Running time: 1
    hour 44 minutes.

    WITH: Jack Black (Bernie Tiede), Shirley MacLaine
    (Marjorie Nugent), Matthew McConaughey (Danny Buck), Brady Coleman
    (Scrappy Holmes), Richard Robichaux (Lloyd Hornbuckle) and Rick Dial
    (Don Leggett).

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    Carbon Based Lifeform
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    #61517

    A review from The New Yorker

    The
    Current Cinema

    by
    David Denby

    April 30, 2012


    Richard Linklater’s “Bernie” is
    devoted to a young man with exceptionally beautiful manners. Bernie Tiede (Jack
    Black), stout and soft-spoken, works as an assistant funeral director in the
    small town of Carthage, in East Texas. He puts on a good show. He dresses the
    bodies with care (the movie begins with him cosmetically enhancing a corpse);
    he sings at the services in a lovely light tenor; he consoles the bereaved.
    When a husband dies, he shows up at the widow’s house with flowers and candy.
    And his benevolence isn’t always self-serving—he gives away money when he has
    nothing to gain by it, and stages musicals at a local school. A gentle,
    closeted gay man, he brings light to Carthage, gracing the parched town with
    culture and refinement. No one is surprised when Bernie starts spending time
    with the wealthy elderly widow Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a miser given
    to screaming fits. Who else would put up with her? By degrees, Bernie becomes
    her friend and business manager, and, eventually, her travelling companion and
    sole heir. And no one is much surprised, or bothered, when Bernie, exhausted by
    Marjorie’s demands on him (everything, we assume, but sexual demands), shoots
    her four times in the back with a .22 rifle normally used for killing
    armadillos. As far as the town is concerned, she deserved it. Anyway, Bernie is
    too sweet a man to be punished for the crime.

     

    This comedy of generosity, money
    lust, and skewed perception is based on a true story. In 1998, two years after
    the murder, the journalist Skip Hollandsworth wrote about it for Texas
    Monthly
    (“Midnight in the Garden of East Texas”). He and Linklater, who
    grew up in East Texas, collaborated on a screenplay, and, after more than a
    decade, finally got the picture made. It’s an odd movie—mild in tone and
    circumspect, yet darkly funny, and done in a hybrid form that I don’t think has
    been used so thoroughly before. Linklater cast good actors in the leading and
    subsidiary roles, but devotes perhaps forty per cent of the screen time to
    interviews with the real residents of Carthage, who, years after the events,
    talk about the actual Bernie and Marjorie. (You see some of the incidents they
    describe performed by the actors.) “I’d never seen a movie told from the
    perspective of a group of gossips,” Linklater has said. “But in this case it
    seemed like the proper narrative technique that would reveal everything you could
    ever really know about the town and the people involved.”

    What it reveals is both touching and
    strange. On porches, in living rooms, and in stores, ebullient women in
    bouffant hair and drawling, cautious men with neatly trimmed beards and
    mustaches explain how much they liked and admired Bernie. Some of the women
    asked him to “do” their funerals; even after death, they wanted his caressing
    attention, his touch of class. The men are somewhat less ardent. A few noticed
    that he was gay—“a little light in the loafers”—but they accepted him as a
    harmless fellow who had a friendly way with everybody. Linklater wickedly
    suggests that this ingratiating style, combined with Christian piety, consorts
    well with a tyrannical Southern insistence on civility. That Bernie was also a
    liar and a murderer is not something that most of Carthage ever took in. The
    local voices—foolish, proper, occasionally stinging—make a daft but instructive
    music.

    Linklater has made a smart movie,
    with a mordant satirical edge, but he almost falls victim to his own sense of
    authenticity. The interviews prevent the picture from developing much momentum
    or suspense. Every time Linklater gets some tension going, he returns to the
    women on the porch. What we need to see is more of the relationship between
    Bernie and Marjorie, which, as portrayed here, doesn’t go much beyond what
    people describe. We never develop our own understanding of what happened. It
    might have been fun if Linklater had been a bit more inventive—if he had made a
    sort of East Texas “Sunset Boulevard”—but he seems to feel that he would have
    betrayed his corner of Texas if he had made too much up.

    Shirley MacLaine, with a masklike face and
    scratchy caterwaul, is frightening as the aging termagant, but she’s hardly on
    the screen. Matthew McConaughey plays Danny Buck Davidson, the indignant and
    boastful prosecutor who went after Bernie in court. Now forty-two, McConaughey
    has lost some of his buttery, blond-beauty dullness. He’s leaner, tougher,
    almost acid. He’s the acting surprise of the movie, yet it’s Jack Black’s film.
    Without him, “Bernie” would have been little more than an intelligent misfire,
    a curiosity. The comic actor suppresses his smirk and his devilish stare and
    stays within character. He gives Bernie a mincing walk—but not too mincing. He
    makes him over-precise in his speech and movements, a devious man who knows
    that graciousness is both armor and weapon. It’s a fine, disciplined piece of
    acting, and it binds us to the mystery of Bernie’s character, in which self-seeking
    and the genuine desire to be useful exist side by side. Spreading Marjorie’s
    money around after she’s dead, Bernie sets people up in business, gives them
    home-repair cash or a new swing set for the kids. In a kind of epilogue, we see
    the real Bernie Tiede as Jack Black interviews him, presumably picking up
    hints. In prison now, busy as ever, distributing good cheer and preaching
    Christian virtue to the inmates, Bernie seems a happy man
    .

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    babypook
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    #61518

    Interesting!
    Love Shirley. Hope this boosts Jack’s profile as well.

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    Morgan Henard
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    #61519

    I finally watched this week. I have never been a fan of Jack Black, save for a couple of performances {High Fidelity, The Holiday}. I was a little skeptical going into this, as it doesn’t take much for Black to go over-the-top. Fortunately, he nails this role. He dominates the screentime and never once do I feel like I’m watching the School of Rock-Jack Black that we’re familiar with. In this he’s charming, sympathetic and proves he can be a talented actor. This does for Black what Stranger Than Fiction did for Will Ferrell and most recently, what Midnight in Paris did for Owen Wilson. Shirley MacLaine is hilarious yet chilling in her role. Black and MacLaine will most likely nab well-deserved Globe nominations.  

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    Morgan Henard
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    #61520

    Bump. It would be a shame for this film to go unnoticed. To those who have seen the film and/or are familiar with the real-life story, check out this NY Times article, written by the real life nephew of Marjorie Nugent.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/magazine/how-my-aunt-marge-ended-up-in-the-deep-freeze.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all  

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    dannyboy.
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    #61521

    I finally watched this week. I have never been a fan of Jack Black, save for a couple of performances {High Fidelity, The Holiday}. I was a little skeptical going into this, as it doesn’t take much for Black to go over-the-top. Fortunately, he nails this role. He dominates the screentime and never once do I feel like I’m watching the School of Rock-Jack Black that we’re familiar with. In this he’s charming, sympathetic and proves he can be a talented actor. This does for Black what Stranger Than Fiction did for Will Ferrell and most recently, what Midnight in Paris did for Owen Wilson. Shirley MacLaine is hilarious yet chilling in her role. Black and MacLaine will most likely nab well-deserved Globe nominations.  

    I haven’t seen the film, so I won’t comment on its merit, but I will say that this film has not made a big enough splash to automatically get its stars nominations by the HFPA. I’m not saying they won’t, I’m just saying that if there is any buzz for this film at all, its tiny. I’ll certainly watch this when it comes out on dvd though, as I’m dying to see Jack Black display some real talent. 

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    Morgan Henard
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    #61522

    I haven’t seen the film, so I won’t comment on its merit, but I will say that this film has not made a big enough splash to automatically get its stars nominations by the HFPA. I’m not saying they won’t, I’m just saying that if there is any buzz for this film at all, its tiny. I’ll certainly watch this when it comes out on dvd though, as I’m dying to see Jack Black display some real talent. 

    Any other time I would agree. But sometimes one can always count on certain stars getting in on name alone. With it being the Globes, Meryl Streep is the first that comes to mind (they nominated for two of her worst films, She-Devil and Mamma Mia). Then, Shirley MacLaine. They gave her a friggin nom for In Her Shoes (good movie, but c’mon). The thing is, I’d be happy to see her get the nomination, not only because it’s a good performance but because it would really put the film out there and give it a second life on DVD. But unfortunately I don’t see voters checking her name off because of the film/performance, but rather, because of who it is. 

    And Black does such a good job in this film. Sometimes an actor comes along in an obscure film and gets all the way to an Oscar nomination (Richard Jenkins in The Visitor) while others can’t even get off the ground running (the best leading male performance of 2011, Michael Shannon in Take Shelter). Black will probably take the route of Shannon and that’s really too bad. 

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    BTN
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    #61523

    Jack Black should get a nomination for actor in a comedy or musical from the Golden Globes. He was excellent and created a compelling character. He also sang very well. I wish Shirley MacLaine had more to do.

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    BTN
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    #61524

    Glad black got the gg nomination!

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    babypook
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    #61525

    Me too, although, that wont translate into a Golden Penis nomination. I love the people Linklater used in the film, actual towns people. So wonderful. I also admire that Jack visited and spoke with the protagonist Bernie Tiede.

    Bernie makes my top ten this year.

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    Daniel B.
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    #61526

    I am very glad Jack Black got this Golden Globe nomination. It was quite well deserved, and was hands down the best performance of his career so far.  After viewing Bernie in the summer, I have been predicting (but more so hoping) that he’d get a Golden Globe nomination! 😀

    In another year when the category is filled with nominees that have no chances at an Oscar nomination, Black could be a serious contender to win (i.e. the years Colin Farrell won, Robert Downey Jr. won, or Paul Giamatti won). Unfortunately, with Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman as likely Oscar nominees, I don’t think Black has a chance at a win.

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    allabout oscars
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    #61527

    BERNIE   ends its awards run today with black’s GG nom….

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    Scottferguson
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    #61528

    He’d be a more worthy lead actor nominee than some of those likely to make it in.

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    Carbon Based Lifeform
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    #61529

    Glad to see somebody recognizing Jack Black’s wonderful, pitch perfect performance.

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