Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey and a whole lot of townspeople
Bernie is based on the true story of Bernie Tiede (Black), a funeral director in a small Texan town who charms the community and even works his way into the heart of a curmudgeonly widow Majorie Nugent (MacLaine). However, he soon becomes her pet and she’s incredibly possessive of him, which leads him to snap and murder her. The community rallies around him but the prosecutor Danny Black (McConaughey) is determined to send Bernie to prison.
Even though this is based on a true story it still has a surreal feeling about it. I know Jack Black gets a lot of flack sometimes but I enjoy his dramatic roles as much as his comedic ones, and here he really disappears into the role, even though there are plenty of opportunities for him to indulge his musical tendencies. I liked the structure of the story, a great deal of it is told through interviews of the townspeople as they talk about Bernie and what happened. Shirley MacLaine doesn’t really have much to do, she basically just scowls and pouts, but she scowls and pouts pretty well.
I think the actual story is pretty interesting as it shows that even the best of us can reach a breaking point, and that a crime is a crime even though the person who died may have actually deserved it. In an interesting twist, a story was released over the past couple of days where it’s been revealed that Bernie Tieded suffered from sexual abuse as a child, and this may have led to him snapping so he’s been released from jail. In a strange condition though, he’s been ordered to live above Richard Linklater’s (who directed Bernie) apartment.
All in all though it’s a pretty decent movie with a good performance by Black and some interesting questions to ponder. I liked it quite a bit but I know it won’t be for everybody.