Friday, April 27, 2012
Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine
April 27, 2012 (LIMITED)
1 hour 40 minutes
Jack Black has been stuck making kids movies these days, whether it’s big roles in crappy films like 'Gulliver's Travels' or fantastic cameo roles in 'The Muppets.' Thing is, we haven't seen him in anything higher than a PG rating since 'Year One,' but that comedy was really stupid. Where is the Jack Black that we know from movies like 'The School of Rock' and 'Be Kind Rewind?' Well, director Richard Linkater, who previously directed both 'School of Rock' and the highly underrated 'Me and Orson Welles' has teamed up with Jack Black to make a movie about the life of Bernie Tiede, who in 1996 killed an 81 year old lady and is now in prison for the rest of his life for it. This film recently was shown at SXSW in Austin and had some popularity, but odds are people won't see this movie. That's not too surprising, because this movie doesn't appeal to many demographics. 'Bernie' is one of those movies that is meant to be seen by the 50+ crowd and some people under that. If teens my age or even college students see this film, they probably won't enjoy it. I thought it was a good movie, but it clearly isn't for everyone. If you want to see a film that is funny and charming in the first half then dark and cynical in the second, then 'Bernie' is what you may want to see.
Jack Black might have given his best performance ever in this film. Instead of going and playing an idiotic but loveable fat man, Black plays possibly the nicest person you will see on screen this year who never intended to kill anyone. I doubt we'll see any Oscar buzz for him as the year progresses, but Black is spectacular in this movie. Shirley MacLaine to me was the weak point of the film. Look, I know she was supposed to play an annoying and sadistic old lady, but when she was that sadistic person, I just got annoyed by it. The same sort of goes with Matthew Mcconaughey, who plays the town sheriff who doesn't give a crap whether Bernie is a good guy or not, rather that he killed an old lady, and that he must suffer for it. Mcconaughey also kind of irritated me, but not as much as MacLaine did. I felt that there was something missing from his performance that should have been there. Overall, the performances are all good, particularly Jack Black. However I wish that the two other stars of the film, MacLaine and Mcconaughey did a better job in the film and didn't get irritating.
I did like the fact that this movie isn't what you'd expect it to be. The film plays out with numerous interviews with the towns’ people who are defending Bernie despite what he did. They even got Mcconaughey to do a few "interview" scenes, which to me was clever and interesting. Of course I wanted it to be like a movie movie, but the documentary feel was a nice surprise. Richard Linkater really knew what he was doing with this movie. It wasn't as great as his last movie 'Me and Orson Welles,' but he still did a really good job making this movie. I don't know the whole story of Bernie and the murder, so I can't say whether he accurately got the facts right. I can say that he really did have this whole movie planned out in front of him. To cast Jack Black as the title role in my opinion was genius. Linkater got a really good cast behind him, but unfortunately the script wasn't as great as it could have been and the film changes its tone instantaneously from a sweet film to a mellow drama and doesn't pick up from there. Look I know everything there is to know regarding the fact that Bernie killed the sadistic old lady, but I just wanted more from it. This is the perfect movie to take your grandparents out to when there's nothing else to do. If you like quirky and interesting movies, then you may like 'Bernie.' However don't go in expecting a full blown masterpiece.