FiLM REViEW: Bernie, 2011

Wow! What an odd but very interesting film.

Based on a real story, Bernie mixes the reflections of real life ‘talking heads’ with actors delivering a very polished (and rather stylised) re-imagining or re-creation of events. Of the two quotes on the image above, ‘murderously charming’ is the better and more accurate. There is an element of gentle humour, but ‘absolutely hilarious’? Hmmm… not really.

Bernie Tiede was, if this film is any guide, a slightly odd but basically very nice guy, who ultimately befriended a rich widow, who, by all accounts, was not an easily likeable person. Bernie got an in on a ritzy lifestyle, and Mrs Nugent got a friend and dogsbody. Which, if either, of the two was using the other?

Was Tiede playing the long game, as a gold-digger? Or was he simply who he seemed to be, a loveable oddball? His behaviour after his arrest and incarceration suggests the latter. But then again, he shot and killed a defenceless old biddy, and stuck her corpse in a freezer!? And carried on living an ever deepening lie, whilst generously splashing her cash around.

Jack Black gives a great performance, and the entire cast conspire to make the whole thing both a little zany and yet totally believable. The ‘real people’ are worked into the fabric of the film expertly. And throughout – but especially when the camera lingers on the faces of Tiede’s jury – you feel this is a film that, as unusual as the subject may be, gives a glimpse of the real America so absent from mainstream Hollywood generally.

Not sure this a ‘great’ film. But it’s very good. And really interesting. Oh, and very entertaining as well.

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