Though billed as a dark comedy, ultimately there’s very little funny about Bernie, a docudrama directed by Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Me and Orson Welles) and based on a true story about a mortician and funeral parlor director, Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), who weasels his way into the affections of a wealthy widow, Marge Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), then murders her. Not that I didn’t chuckle a few times. It was hard not to, given the magnitude of the lie that was concealed behind the complacent smirk of the protagonist, masterfully played by Black, as he carried himself as a paragon of charity, spreading God’s word and working as a community volunteer in the small town of Carthage, Texas.
Watching John Wells’s The Company Men, I couldn’t help but recall the emergence of the faceless proletariat drones from their subterranean prison in Fritz Lang’s silent-film classic Metropolis from 1927. True, the systems employing the workers depicted in the two films are superficially quite different. On the one hand, few films seem a more scathing commentary on the evils of communism than Metropolis, with its critique of the expendability of the worker masses employed by a city ruler. On the other, the Global Transportation Systems (or GTX) executives in The Company Men would probably be viewed by many Americans as ruggedly individualistic capitalists who have deservedly eaten their slice of the American pie. However, the end results of the economic philosophies underlying the two films are not so dissimilar. Slaves towing the corporate line are just as expendable (and faceless) as slaves toiling for a commonwealth.