Jack Black plays a Texan named Bernhardt Tiede II, better known around Carthage as Bernie, an assistant funeral home director and church choir director. A good “people person,” he treats the living and the dead with loving care. In the first scene of “Bernie” he passes along this tip to mortuary science students: apply Super-Glue to keep shut the eyes of the deceased and casketed. After interring her well-off husband, Bernie befriends Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), an easy-to-hate widow who will employ him as a caretaker, shopper, chauffeur and cruise-ship escort. Their relationship ends badly, as detailed in Skip Hollandsworth’s 1998 Texas Monthly article titled “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas.” Regionalist director Richard Linklater co-writes what he calls a “dark comedy” based on colorfully off-color lore. Carthage locals appear in character for documentary-style recollections of sweet Bernie and mean Marjorie. The true-crime source material proves irresistible for over-easy eye-rolling if not knee-slapping. With Matthew McConaughey. 104m. (Bill Stamets)
“Bernie” opens Friday at Landmark Century and Evanston CineArts
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.