Niceness trap in north-east Texas

Love lifted me.

Bernie (Millennium Entertainment, 2012).  Rated R for language, and Bernie treating a corpse with make-up and superglue (for the eyelids) in an on-stage demonstration, and a frozen Shirley McLaine.
Jack Black plays a beloved assistant funeral director that added touches to funerals: casket compartments, additional crosses, hugs, singing, and with an extra cost, a release of dove(s).  An unusually nice character, Bernie Tiede tried to please everyone, but he made the mistake of getting sucked into massaging the ego of a spoiled, bitter old lady named Marjorie Nugent, whose family wanted nothing but her money.  Originally, it was his helping hand in giving her someone to travel with, to exotic places or just out-of-state.  But more and more, month after month, she became possessive, and treated him like a servant, to the point that his only escape was with her death.
She commanded him to practice use of an armadillo gun for the invading animals, alone, for the first time using this — or any — gun.  After more needlessly harsh words and an opportunity for a Mr. Hyde to come out, Bernie shot the 81-yr.-old in the back four times.  And after reacting to what he’d done, he preserved the body in a freezer.  The last person on Earth you’d think would do it confesses to police with raw emotion.
Matthew McConaughey plays the prosecuting district attorney.  During slow weeks he would spin a wheel on which crook he’d go after next, stating he’ll surely put them all away.  Now prosecuting an attention-getting murder case, he feeds the jury the message that the defendant was ‘of a different world,’ riding first class — not exactly by choice, and knowing the correct pronunciation of Les Misérables.  So you have the shock of the confession and the shock of the verdict.
Beside the main cast of characters, the Carthage town folk interviews are real.  You get perspectives from real people in the area, and four-letter words to go with some of those perspectives.  They know that most of these homicide cases are domestic; they know any shooting by a stranger in these parts are rare.  And to avoid having the serious subject matter envelop the entire film, humor was maintained.  In the sequence where one guy maps parts of Texas, a literal question mark was rendered for the most north-western part of the state when he drew a blank.
The original writer that covered the actual story teamed with director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, School of Rock) for the screenplay.  Much like Bernie’s ability to liven up cadavers, Black was chosen in casting for his ability to liven up a part that’s ordinary and good at cooking but a bit effeminate.  McConaughey is from Texas, but he ended up sounding like…McConaughey with a Texan accent.  I found the film incomplete as either a documentary or as a comedy; it needs better punctuation.  Grade: B.


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