Nearly every time I leave my comfort zone cinematically speaking and go see a movie that I instinctively know that I am not going to like/possibly loath even, I end up wishing I had stayed at home. I saw nothing in the trailer that I thought I would like about this one at all, but much to my surprise film critics that I admire rated it so highly that I thought that maybe my first impressions were wrong. 104 very long minutes later, I knew otherwise.
Based on a true story, Bernie is an overweight very effeminate Assistant Funeral Director in the small town of Carthage in East Texas. A deeply religious man who takes great pains to become a beloved figure in the local community, his special interest is in fussing around elderly women whose husbands he had just buried. He paid them all more attention than they had ever had from their dearly departed until one day this rather creepy hobby of his paid off big time when he met Margery Nugent.
Ms. Nugent was not only as rich as hell but she as old as the hills and as miserable as sin. The latter part didn’t deter the intrepid Berne one single iota and for once all his flattering and fawning paid off as he hit the jackpot. He became Marjorie’s ‘companion’ and together they traveled the world as she showered him with gifts always picking up the expensive tabs. Eventually though her ornery old self came through and she started treating him as her personal possession and would not allow him to do anything at all other than run around and wait on her hand and foot. Mean spirited and nasty she just pushed him to far one day and eventually she ended up forcing him to make her a candidate for the Funeral home. She didn’t actually make it there as after shooting her, he dumped the body in a freezer in the garage.
As she was hated by most people including her estranged relatives, Bernie managed to fob off Margery’s disappearance for a very long time until eventually her nosey Stockbroker missing his commissions got the Sheriff to listen to him, and then soon it was all over for Bernie. But as he had been liberally spreading Margery’s fortune around town doing good works for so many organizations he was considered a hero and not a killer and it looked like he may actually get away with it.
The main trouble I had getting on board with this movie was that it was very obvious very soon where this somewhat of an annoying story was going even though it took far to long to get there. Even worse the miserable Margery was played so badly by the (normally fab) Shirley McLane whose face has now been so ‘greatly altered cosmetically’ it was nigh on impossible to even notice when she changed from scowling to happy in her rather pitifully caricature performance. It unintentionally transformed this comedy into a farce.
There were two redeeming features that made me at least sit there to the end. Firstly the plot was interspersed with interviews with some of the local community which were both hilarious in their comments and their O.M.G. outfits. And secondly Jack Black’s performance as Bernie was a revelation to me as I had simply no idea that he was this good an actor.
Next time I will stay at home with a DVD or even with an old widow woman of my own.