A guy so nice he should be able to get away with anything!
Screenplay By: Skip Hollandsworth & Richard Linklater
Directed By: Richard Linklater
Bernie Tiede is a murderer. He shot a woman in the back, he confessed to it, and never for a second denied his actions. Let that roll around in your head for a minute. We punish murderers, that’s what we do as a society. There are laws that people must live by, and when they break those laws they have to pay a price. Sometimes society is more lenient than others when it comes to certain crimes. Murder is not one of those crimes. Maybe self-defense can excuse the act, but when it’s as clear cut a case of someone shooting a person four times from behind and then confessing to their cold blooded action we can’t excuse that person. Why then, is it that when Bernie had finished I was upset that Mr. Tiede was in prison and being punished for his crime?
Cinema is an interesting thing, and it’s almost never as truthful as we’d like to believe. Films show us events as the people behind the film want us to see them. The only truth we get from a film is the truth of those making said film. In real life Mr. Tiede may possibly be a terrible person, someone who adopted a facade of niceness to fool those around him. I don’t know the real Mr. Tiede, the only Bernie I know is the one portrayed by Jack Black. That Bernie is a great guy through and through. He’s a gentlemen, someone who only cares about helping others. The Bernie I know only had one momentary lapse in judgement. Does he deserve to be punished for his actions, most definitely. Should he be in prison for the rest of his life when all he did was rid the world of miserable excuse for a human being, no way in heck.
Stop and think again, if you will. This time think about the ridiculousness of what I put forth in that last paragraph. I somehow justified a murderer being a good person who needs to be set free. I even painted him as someone who did the greater community a service by killing the person he did. I shouldn’t be thinking in such a way, and yet I believe every word I typed about Mr. Tiede needing to be set free. I put most of this on the brilliant, and I mean that word in every sense, performance of Mr. Black. This is the performance that should define his career, and prove that he can be a fabulous actor when he puts his mind to it. Mr. Black is funny, charming, and one hundred percent believable as the eponymous Bernie. So great is Mr. Black that I wanted him to be innocent, I needed him to be innocent, even though by his own admission he is guilty. That doesn’t matter though, because Mr. Black lived and breathed being such an exemplary guy in Bernie that he deserved to get away with what he did.
I don’t want to shortchange Richard Linklater, or the rest of the cast for that matter, but Bernie is really the Jack Black show. The film as a whole is really great, but Mr. Black is almost transcendent in the lead role. I loved everything that everyone in Bernie was doing, but all I can think about, and write about, is how great the performance of Mr. Black is in this film. I laughed, I was intrigued, and ultimately I found myself in a morally questionable position. Thanks Mr. Black for the fine performance, it’s one that I’m willing to say is for the ages. A murderer who I want to be let go scot free, how messed up is that?
Good review Bill. It’s strange that so many people adore Black here, because he’s essentially doing everything that we’ve seen him do before. Heck, he even sings! However, it’s the character of Bernie that makes him so likable to begin with, so we’re able to forgive more easily.
I think the difference here is that Black is far more mannered and appears to be more in touch with his character. I’ve always liked Black as an actor, but as Bernie he really is something special.