I’ve never been much for mockumentaries. People talking to the camera bores me. I like action and narrative drive or non-linear weird storytelling and epiphany.
I went to see Bernie anyway.
I have always been ambivalent about Jack Black. I have seen him on late night television with a raging cold and he was still the funniest interview ever. I’ve also seen him in School of Rock (shoot me, I was having a bad day and wanted pure escapism) and that terrible movie The Holiday, in which Kate Winslet wiped everyone off the screen (see my last blog about British actors…and I forgot to mention her! Sorry Kate! I’m in love with you, too!). It’s clear Jack Black’s comedic talents are off the charts, and just as clear he can’t connect with another actor to save his life.
But I read the reviews, and it was well-received, so I went. And you know, it was a great role for Jack Black! Yes, he could have cut a little deeper with his emotional reality, but he wasn’t required to actually connect with anyone in most scenes, and his character work and physicality were pretty stellar. Every once in a while you get reminded that certain roles can play to an actor’s strengths and help you to forget his very big weaknesses.
Of course, none of the actors including Shirley MacLaine could compete with the real folks from Texas making their debut in this movie. I truly thought they were all real and all knew Bernie Tiede. Their turns of speech, their prejudices, the view into small town Texan life stole the movie. The relationship between Bernie and Marjorie doesn’t have enough depth to compete.
Did I like the movie? It’s hard to like something so disturbing. I think it’s worth seeing, that it’s darkly funny, and that the real Texans are wonderful. I think Jack Black’s character work was excellent, even though I never forgot for a second he was acting. I think that Shirley MacLaine has had a hell of a lot of plastic surgery.
And I think that it’s unfortunate that I understand too well the insecurities of a woman who believes she is not worthy of being loved and so controls away the only love being offered….and a man who needs so desperately to be liked that he puts up with her abuse until the rage inside him explodes and he has to kill her. There is a lot of all of us in these extremes, and I wish the movie had dug deeper, made it funnier, made us see more deeply. We get shown a lot of presentational scenes and the meaning of those scenes is clear. But movies and movie acting are usually much richer in subtlety, and no genre can do subtlety as well as black comedy…a genre I love, love, love.
See the movie. Decide which character you are. And then squirm for a while. That’s always a good time.