By perhaps the lazier of the two content creators
As an apathetic and undecided college kid at one of the largest schools in the country, it’s been a bit difficult to pinpoint an interest that I’ll – hopefully – love for the rest of my life. However, after a trip to career services center that forced my hand, you’re now officially reading the review of a biomedical sciences student. “Exciting,” I know. The end goal, really, is to work around corpses, and since I haven’t been able to land a tour of the morgue just yet – and I’m sure that request may have raised a red flag somewhere – I decided to turn to movies about coroners and funeral home directors. Bernie fell into my lap pretty quickly. Is it what I was looking for? Not at all. Did I love it? Absolutely, and you will too.
Bernie Tiede, played by Jack Black (who took park in five – yeah, five – movies in the same year) is a skilled funeral home worker, salesman, church singer, and all-around great guy. In the small town of Carthage, Texas, the slightly-effeminate undertaker is known and loved by everyone. Although he is not paid to do so, he goes above and beyond to comfort the families left behind by the deceased – which mostly entails delivering flowers and gifts to elderly widows. When Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) becomes a widow as well – and everyone despises her coldness and unwillingness to be a friendly addition to the small-town dynamic – Bernie does his best to appeal to what he believes is a deep-down good nature, and quickly becomes Marjorie’s new best friend. Estranged from her sisters and grandchildren, Bernie is the only person Marjorie feels happy with, and the pair can soon be found traveling the world first class, and attending only the most prestigious events. Not long after, however, Ms. Nugent becomes possessive of Bernie’s time, firing all her employees and making sure he spends far less time working at the funeral home than he would like. Although Bernie is naturally good-hearted, he can only last for so long.
Visually, this movie is quite appealing. Told in flashbacks and short interviews with the people of Carthage, the story is told in a familiar tone; people in Texas love to gossip. Each character has a pull – you’ll either love them, or love to hate them. Directed by Richard Linklater, whose extensive list of movies includes Boyhood and SubUrbia, Bernie comes with a plot twist you might not expect, and while Jack Black is typically found in loudmouth, clownish roles, Bernie is a stark and lovable contrast. Although this film relies heavily on plot points relating to death, it’s definitely a feel-good – though, in my not-so-humble opinion, there was room for improvement on the ending. Next time you’re looking for an affable, moustachioed, Christian mortician to bond with, Bernie is your guy.
Available on Netflix and Amazon Video for $2.99 rental.