Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bernie, Bernie, Bernie

I have never forgotten the first time I heard Stevie Nick's "Edge of Seventeen," (Just like the white-winged dove sings a song, sounds like she's singing, ooh baby ooh); try as I have, I cannot get outta my head the picture of my father's bleeding to death in front of me; I will always remember those three wonderful days my babies came into the world; I wish I could forget the pain of gallbladder attacks that made me choke and gasp for air. And unless Alzheimer's shuts down the mental filing cabinet that stores those terrific and terrible memories, all of the above remains contained in perpetuity.
Like the movie I saw two nights ago, Bernie. A $2.99 rental from my neighborhood Blockbuster.
Forty-eight hours later, I am still thinking about that damned movie. I had never seen anything like it. In fact, the whole time I was watching, I was thinking My God, this is small-town America, for real, up there on my flat-screen.  Filmed at times documentary-style, I was incredulous at the parade of everyday people talking about the title character. Are they all actors? Where on earth did these people come from? Thirty minutes into the movie, I got out of the recliner to look at the rental box. I needed to know more: What is the deal with this movie?
Here's the deal: Set in the small, rural town of Carthage, Texas, Bernie is the true-crime story of a beloved assistant funeral director, Bernie Tiede, who one afternoon loses his mind momentarily and fires four bullets into the community's crochety (and rich) widow, Marjorie Nugent.
The charm of the story lies in Jack Black's dead-on portrayal (no pun intended) of closeted homosexual Bernie Tiede's beloved role in the friendly, "let's-just-all-have-a-picnic-and-make-ice-cream-community" of Carthage, and Shirley MacLaine's cantankerous rendering of Mrs. Nugent. There's a scene in a Mexican restaurant ~ involving annoying chewing ~ that is so maddening I just knew one of them was going to end up dead, because, c'mon, a person who goes that far out of her way to annoy someone practically deserves to die. For me, though, what makes the story memorable are the townspeople who speak so highly of Bernie: "Oh, everybody just loved Bernie; he was so kind" (only kind came out as kahnd, what with the Texas drawl), and so poorly of Marjorie (""Let's just face it: she was a bitch"). Bernie's townspeople look like anyone's aunt or uncle or cousin or grandma or grandpop who live out in the sticks. You can tell that the folks visited the hair salon and the barber prior to being interviewed, that they spent time picking out perfect outfits and accessories.
There's much comedy to the tragedy, which works so well for this film that cutie-pie Matthew McConaughey comes across as more of a buffoon than an upright district attorney. The $2.99 rental was worth the price just to see McConaug-heeeeeeeey not looking so heeeeeeeeeey at all.
The writer in me gets a huge kick out of the absurdity and the silliness, and the fact that this entire story is a true one .... because, as we word-nerds know, the truth is always stranger than fiction.

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