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Morbidly Seriocomic True-Crime Story Gives Black an Ideal Role for His Quirky Persona
EUyeshima27 August 2012
Casting Jack Black in the title role of this 2012 dark comedy turns out to be a masterstroke on the part of director and co-screenwriter Richard Linklater because the real-life character of Bernie Tiede is a comically ambiguous figure not only sexually but more to the point, as a jovial child-man personality beloved by his small Texas town of Carthage while at the same time, strangely insistent in his constant presence in their lives. His pointed need for universal acceptance and unconditional love is what makes Bernie unique as a screen creation. It takes Black's oddly discomfiting screen persona to make the character work as a protagonist of closeted complexity, and in turn, he delivers his most accomplished screen work to date. No stranger to Texas-size guffaws intermingled with wry observations about human nature, the versatile Linklater ("Before Sunrise/Sunset") tells this hard-to-believe, true-crime story with both morbid humor and surprising conviction.

Based on a seriocomic 1998 Texas Monthly article by co-screenwriter Skip Hollandsworth, the plot revolves around the unlikely relationship between Bernie, a relentlessly thoughtful assistant funeral director, and Marjorie Nugent, recently widowed and one of the richest women in Carthage. As Bernie becomes indispensable to the fabric of the community with his acts of charitable kindness, his Broadway-style choir solos, and his gentlemanly way of comforting widows in the throes of their grief, the ever-scowling Marjorie is always ready for battle with not only the townsfolk who impede on her life but even her immediate family who can't stand her. Bernie, however, is able to breakthrough her icy veneer with his cheery persistence, and their relationship evolves into an unhealthy codependence to put it mildly. As Marjorie lavishes Bernie with expensive gifts and luxurious vacations, she grows increasingly manipulative in her need to control his every move to meet her every need.

Even Bernie has his limits about what he is willing to do under her iron fist, and needless to say, consequences ensue. For all the dire consequences, Linklater keeps the mood buoyant with the insertion of intertitles to signal what question the movie will address next and with the brief interviews he includes with both actors and true residents of Carthage, all showing their unqualified support of Bernie through his burgeoning troubles. Much like Warren Beatty did in "Reds", Linklater uses them as a cumulative Greek chorus who on one hand, provide some of the film's biggest laughs, and on the other, illustrate just how myopic and oppressive a small town can be in its rumor mongering ways, so much so that Bernie's trial has to be moved fifty miles away in order to allow the light of objectivity to filter into the proceedings. As Bernie, Black finally has a multi-dimensional role that fits him perfectly, and I would be hard pressed to identify anyone else who could have played the character to the seriocomic depths he achieves here.

Well into her seventh decade of movie stardom, Shirley MacLaine is not particularly challenged in portraying Marjorie's sourpuss nature since she's been playing variations on the same role since her turn as the ornery Ouisa in "Steel Magnolias". However, in one key scene, she lets loose all her insecurities that exposes the impenetrable cage in which she has put the increasingly desperate Bernie. Linklater favorite Matthew McConnaughey ("Dazed and Confused") plays the showboating district attorney Danny Buck with gusto, although I wish he was reined in a bit more to provide more of a contrast to the other two principal actors. The movie is a fascinating meld of the Coen Brothers' "Fargo" and Hal Ashby's "Harold and Maude" with an unexpected dose of Christopher Guest's mockumentaries. While Linklater does not completely avoid making Carthage the object of ridicule, he has made a black comedy with surprising resonance when all is said and done, especially when you see the real Tiede in an archival video clip at the end.
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One of the best performances of Jack Black's career!
natasha-bishop17 June 2011
I saw the world premiere of "Bernie" last night at the Los Angeles Film Festival. I must confess, after Jack Black's run of "Year One", "Gulliver's Travels", and "Kung Fu Panda", I was starting to lose hope of ever seeing the "School of Rock" guy I fell in love with. When I heard Richard Linklater (School of Rock) and Jack Black were teaming up again, I felt a glimmer of hope. I am happy to report, I was not disappointed last night! Jack Black gives one of the best performances of his career in "Bernie." Shirley MacLaine was the icing on the cake and Matthew McConaughey was the cherry on top. I loved this movie! "Bernie" is based on the true story of Bernie Tiede, an assistant funeral director and general do-gooder, who confessed to killing Marjorie Nugent, a very rich and mean old lady. Bernie was a bit eccentric but beloved by his entire community of Carthage, Texas. Jack Black nails this performance. He really shows us what he is capable of as an actor. It was such a pleasure to watch him transform into Bernie Tiede. Great moments of physical comedy and also some twisted, dark moments of catching a glimpse into Bernie's spiraling psyche. Shirley MacLaine was Marjorie Nugent who was known as a mean, bitter lady with no friends and a family who tried to sue her for her money. You can't go wrong with Shirley MacLaine – she's just brilliant. The chemistry between MacLaine and Black was fantastic. I truly enjoyed watching them on the screen together. Even at the world premiere last night they had great chemistry in person. It seems like they truly loved working together on this film. Matthew McConaughey was great as the D.A. Danny Buck Davidson, the character didn't seem to be a huge stretch for him, but who cares – he was great! I'm not sure when it is due to be released, but I will be recommending it to my friends when it hits theatres.
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All about Texas, via a stunning Jack Black performance
secondtake26 February 2013
Bernie (2011)

Don't you hate it when you see a funny movie and think at the end, wow, that could have been so much funnier? This movie really is funny, and Jack Black is kind of brilliant at being this man who has incredible generosity and a quirky kind of social skill to be everyone's favorite. And who ends up taking care of the richest woman in town, getting his name on her will, and so on, as you can guess.

To get the gags and to give a sense of documentary reality, clips of interviews with colorful townsfolk of all types are shown, and they are some of the funniest moments. When these same people are shown again and again there is a sense of welcome familiarity--an update on things from a known face--but also a sameness to the movie. It falls into a pattern. And it's a major part of the movie, with thirty of these talking heads, so naturally the momentum of the main plot is slowed down often. As the events become more extreme, the movie does not. It plods along, relying on some great idiosyncratic acting and the weird (and exaggerated?) East Texas culture.

But Black inhabits his character so well it's scary. The other big name (the biggest name) is Shirley MacLaine, who doesn't actually have that much to do (most of the time she is silent, just ominous or dour). And she of course doesn't make it through the whole film (the trailer and teaser give away too much on that score). The third name is Matthew McConaughey, and he's predictably fun and funny, though he blends in with lots of other unknown characters who are also fun and funny.

So it's the scenario, and some funny writing, that carries the day. Well done stuff. Director and writer Richard Linklater is a curious talent, a little all over the map but good at several things, including just being offbeat enough to seem like the Indie director he once was. His pair of movies "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" are growing into unlikely classics (I like them both a lot) and yet he is also known for lesser comedies like "Dazed and Confused" and now this one.

Yeah, see this for some good laughs. The beginning will seem a little like a lame "Six Feet Under" episode, but stick with it. Black's character is utterly convincing, and funny. A good time.
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Excellent and very funny black comedy
MattyGibbs9 December 2014
A mortician strikes up a friendship with a rich controlling businesswoman that doesn't have good consequences.

The film is told like a documentary with interviews with people who knew the pair along with flashbacks to stages in their relationship. It's an interesting format and one that works well. The story flows well and holds your attention throughout. This is a good example of a black comedy that really works with a sparkling and very witty script with lots of well observed and funny moments but also some good dark drama.

It features a strong cast with Jack Black as a popular mortician.The stand out performance for me was by Matthew McConaughey as the charismatic cop trying to put Black behind bars.

Bernie is one of those films that you watch with low expectations but which surprises you with how good it is. It deserves a much higher rating than it's current 6.8 (36,466 votes). Highly recommended.
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Linklater knows Texas
thelastjoker22 May 2012
This was a surprisingly good movie. Director Richard Linklater blends semi-documentary style with dark comedy and tragic real-life events in an exceptional way. Based on the murder of a wealthy widow in Carthage Texas in 1996. This movie gives you an interesting glimpse into small town life and how the people there dealt with this unique situation. Jack Black proves he can act, Matthew McConaughy looked to be enjoying himself, and Shirley MacLaine, while not having much to do, is still a welcome addition to the cast. Linklater even uses real townsfolk to help narrate the story through their own recollections of the events. This is one of those independent films that is a must see.
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Enthusiastically quirky
StevePulaski20 May 2012
One could technically label Bernie a docudrama, as it is definitely more than meets the eye in terms of bringing facts to the table. The film is intercut with segments featuring the townspeople of Carthage, Texas discussing their relationship with the real Bernie Tiede and how his cheery eccentricities rubbed off on the town. Some of them are clearly actors, one of them being Matthew McConaughey's mother, but many are authentic folk off the street. Linklater very early on breeds variety into a film with so many unique and cute subtleties that after a while, you contemplate what you may have missed. Enthusiastically

Tiede is an assistant funeral director in Carthage, and can't be more proud of what he does. He's the man who fixes up the dead to make them look sometimes better than they did alive. Bernie is notorious for connecting deeply with his customers who have come to him after the death of a loved one, and even manages to stay in contact with many of them long after the funeral, dropping by and even bringing them flowers occasionally. He's a genial, kind soul and effortlessly brightens everyone's day. Almost like that guy on the street, at the office, on the bus, or in the neighborhood you don't know personally, don't know their history, or quite possibly even know their name, but you make the humane nuance to wave or say hello to them frequently. Tiede is an ode to that person in your life.

Bernie becomes friends with Marjorie Nugent (MacLaine), a wealthy old widow, who is mean-spirited and, after occupying a certain disdain for him, gives into his cheeriness and they begin hanging out with each other. It isn't long before Bernie grows weary of Mrs. Nugent's browbeating comments and shoots her four times in the back. Devastated at what he has done out of pure anger, he manages to conceal the body for months before the district attorney Danny Buck (played extremely well by McConaughey, whose character somewhat resembles Woody Harrelson's cold-blooded cop from Rampart), a cowboy-hatted, tall, and thin man always dapper, becomes suspicious of Bernie. He believes his nice appearance is just a put-on for the heartless deviant he really is.

The character of Bernie is played by Jack Black, in a role that is beyond any description I can helpfully provide. His character needs to be seen. Black takes a character, whose story and personality is likely unknown to many people in 2012, and invents this kind, charismatic person in the blink of an eye. Bernie is perhaps the nicest movie character I have been greeted with this year, and even after he kills an old woman, it's hard to even have harsh feelings for the sap. What he did was wrong, but it has become apparent that when a film features a cold-blooded killer, we are robbed of backstory and reason as to why he is doing this or how he got here. We learn so much about Bernie and his life before the inevitable murder that we almost can't hate the man despite his unforgivable actions.

Richard Linklater, who previously worked with Black in the impressive School of Rock, directs this black comedy with a serene bite, providing it with a rich script, and three lovable performances by three fine actors. Its deep south cinematography reminds me of the kind used in the drama Seven Days in Utopia, only more expressively used and healthier for the tone of the picture, not to mention the involving narrative carried throughout the excursion truly compliments the quiet rural nature of its setting. Bernie is one of the most enthusiastically quirky pictures of the year.

Starring: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McConaughey. Directed by: Richard Linklater.
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He just won't say no...
dvc51596 June 2012
"Bernie" is a nice surprise by Richard Linklater and Jack Black - the same team that brought you 2003's comedy hit "The School of Rock"; now they have reunited for a different type of comedy - a dark one.

Black acts differently in this movie - more restraint, more focused, and at times more intense than in any other film he's done before. His humor here is low-key and not physical a feat done with his absorbing performance. Here is a guy who is loved by everyone - who must be loved by everyone, and who can never say no. It is both an interesting and challenging role for him but he pulls it off in a great way - perhaps paving the way to more challenging and dramatic roles in the future. Compared to other comedy film actors who tried more serious turns, he's not yet as terrific as say, Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show" or Adam Sandler in "Punch-Drunk Love" - but he's on the right track.

Shirley MacLaine is also very different here - she has a sweet, somewhat cheeky personality in many of her previous films of late, but for this movie there's a cold, demeaning aura around her, and her steely eyes sell it. Matthew McConaughey as the ruthless district attorney has certainly improved in his acting range - just check out the courtroom scenes.

I really appreciate the small-town setting of the film. The film is told by ''interviews'' with the friendly small-town folk, giving a quirky and homely feel to the film, while at the same time Linklater smoothly meshes narrative flashbacks into it - which brings me to the editing. The film moves at a strong clip and never feels rushed nor draggy. The above-average screenplay has balances just the right amount of screen- time to establish the story and characters, notably Bernie. Just when you think the film is about to end - there's always another interesting thing happening that keeps the audience glued.

Black and Linklater make a good, promising actor-director team. Perhaps Linklater will be the key to unlock Black's potential in acting. Of course, this is still a ''little'' movie - a low budget, and scarcely any promotion at all... so hopefully word of mouth spreads just how very good this dark comedy is.

P.S. I was not aware that the film is based on a true story. That made the film even more dark and quirky than it was supposed to be.

Overall rating: 77%
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Texas True!
sailingsmot17 October 2011
I had the privilege of seeing this film in Austin last month. Mr. Linklater was among the thousands devastated by the fires in Bastrop county and with his hard work and help from Jack Black and crew they turned the screening into a fundraiser to help the fire victims. They raised over $155,000. It was a great event. The movie was the best part. If you live or have lived in a small town anywhere in America you'll 'get' this movie and you won't be able to stop laughing. If you're in Texas or you hate Texas, it'll be just that much better. The characters are real, the acting is superb. Jack is at the top of his game and Mathew did an outstanding job. He played his role right on the edge, always close to going over the top but never getting there. Shirley is a gem and acted like I've never seen her before. Thank you Richard for your film and your efforts in Bastrop. My farm survived, but too many friends lost everything. Oh, and thanks for letting me be in this film. Woohoo that's me at the end Ma!!
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A Brilliant Film!
frebo35 May 2012
Last Friday a theater full of cinemaphiles (in what one old codger in the film calls "the People's Republic of Austin") LOVED it! It was Jack Black's best performance in the most demanding role he's ever attempted. Shirley MacLain was brilliant in developing a complex character in what was almost a non-speaking role. Supporting players, the funeral director, the broker, the sheriff, were first rate - but the major character in the film is the Greek Chorus, dubbed "The Gossips" by director Linklater, comprised of a score of actors and local townspeople who narrate the reenactment of real events in a docudrama, combining interviews that have the look and feel of modern Reality TV with techniques that were used in the earliest silent films, like the use of title cards to indicate the passage of time and the shifting focus of the story. A brilliant job by Linklater in creating a noir comedy like "What's the Trouble With Harry?" while sustaining a clear trace of the human tragedy and sadness that underlies the story. WARNING: Don't miss the opening! It's a grabber!
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A lot of fun and amazingly, it's all true!
MartinHafer5 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I sat down to watch this film at 2am--assuming I'd just watch a little and then go to bed. However, I just couldn't stop watching. And, soon my wife joined me and she, too, stayed up WAY later than she planned. Why? Because this film is fascinating from start to finish and is truly unique. It's the true story of Bernie Tiede and his BIZARRE, and eventually fatal, relationship with Marjorie Nugent--a woman hated by just about everyone--and eventually by Bernie as well. Now here's the rub--despite Bernie having killed Marjorie, no one in the town seemed to really think this was a bad thing. After all, the folk thought that she WAS a horrible person and, if Bernie did do it, it couldn't have been THAT bad! After all, they reasoned, he's such a wonderful and nice guy.

Had this been all there was to the story, it really wouldn't have been that entertaining (though it would have been pretty bizarre). However, the filmmaker (Richard Linklater) constructed the film in such a wonderful way that the film cannot help but hook you. In a WEIRD move, he has many of the actual townsfolk interviewed and inserted throughout the film. A few were actually actors--most were just folks who loved Bernie and couldn't stand Marjorie and wanted to talk about it! And so, the film consists of these interviews as well as actors playing out the story--making it a documentary...of sorts. It also helped Linklater and the movie that the actors, particularly Jack Black, did a wonderful job. And, is helped that the writers (one of which was Linklater himself) did such a dandy job. In particular, I loved how the film got the sound of the Southern Bible Belt folks. I am VERY familiar with this region and the conversations they had made me laugh because they sounded so true--such as the women in the Bible study who were debating if Jesus turned the water into REAL ALCOHOLIC wine! I also adored the guy who described the various regions at the beginning of the film--priceless and VERY funny--especially when he was describing Austin!

So, how truthful is the film? Well, according to an article that my wife and I read by one of Marjorie's relatives, VERY true and very realistic. I was surprised that they didn't complain about how horrible she and the other family members seemed in the film! And, they, too, thought Bernie was a nice guy despite his having murdered Marjorie!

By the way, if you get a chance, you can read through Bernie Tiede's web blog--all the way from his prison cell! Surprisingly, it seems (according to the web pages) that he has a LOT of support for his release--including from Black and Linklater. Weird.

Overall, a brilliantly made and highly original film. I have no idea if the film will be nominated for any awards, but it should. Linklater and Black deserve some recognition for this movie.
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Bernie...a good undertaking
dgefroh30 December 2012
When I decided to watch this movie, I was under the impression it was suppose to be comedy, and while there are some humorous and funny moments, this is more of a drama than anything else. That said, this was a good movie, one that engages and hooks you almost from the very beginning. The fact that this is based on a true story actually helps make this even better, to think someone like "Bernie" really existed just helps draw you into his complex and quirky world. Jack Black is simply amazing in this role, that's a statement I never thought I'd make, but in truth he is suburb and possibly Oscar mention worthy. Here's my take away, this movie is worth your time or money whichever is more important to you. It's a enjoyable journey into a real life odd ball character that simply grows on you from start to end.
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What a piece of work! Outstanding!
sgphoto9 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I only have one question. Why didn't Jack Black get an Oscar? Black's performance was spot-on and he's never been better. His immersion in his character was as close to Billy Bob Thorton in Slingblade as I've ever seen. I don't impress easy, but Jack was Bernie. His singing and dancing, walk, talk, mannerisms, and speech patterns are a tribute to his ability to posses the role.

If Jack never does another movie, he's solid gold forever with this movie. The supporting cast from Shirley McClaine to Matthew Mcconaughey and all the townspeople were superb, direction was unobtrusive, editing was natural, and the styling was perfection.

A tip of my hat to everyone connected to this golden masterpiece, and Jack Black's star is shining in the heavens.

Free Bernie! and more great scripts for Jack Black.
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Hilarious Slice Of Americana
georgep5322 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
If you like dark comedies by all means find a way to see "Bernie". I do and I loved it. This little gem has everything going for it. The witty script by Skip Hollandsworth and Richard Linklater incorporates documentary elements to hilarious effect in recounting the true story of what happens in a small Texas town when a sunny, jovial funeral cosmetician, Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) starts up a relationship with the town's wealthy, old curmudgeon, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). These two characters evoke memories of Mister Rogers and Anne Ramsey of "Throw Momma From the Train". Black gives a great performance. It's a perfect marriage of actor and role down to the smallest detail. Screen legend Shirley MacLaine, who specialized in playing sweet, vulnerable ingenues in her early career, scores as a woman so mean she makes Leona Helmsley look like Mother Theresa. Matthew McConaughey shines in a supporting role as a cynical prosecutor convinced that beneath Bernie's good-natured exterior lies a heart of darkness. Director Richard Linklater does an excellent job of taking a grim subject and turning it into a wryly observant look at contemporary life and mores.
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Loved it in spite of myself
rzajac13 April 2015
I know I'm not supposed to like a flick like this because it's got all the wrong things; interviews, way too much exposition, an operatic style (simple story, drawn out to feature-length), ...and so much more.

But it's such an obvious labor of love. And... What a story! It's very simple, and the moral is a direct one: Every last mother-loving one of us has within us the potential to act out that which Bernie did.

Of course, there's a lot that the movie does very, very well. The most important thing, of course, is how the setup for the critical moment is cleverly designed and paced to drive home the all-important moral.

Everything beyond that is icing on a strange and wonderful cake. The flick is witty and rollicking and fun. It showcases the southern, "hick" language, style, and mentality, while simultaneously humbling us by reminding us of what can be easily forgotten; that deep humanity is the heritage of all God's human creations, regardless of culture and background.

I was recently reading about the film composer Nino Rota, and recalled the words of Fellini, when asked about him: "He's an angel of music". Well, Black's performance was nothing short of angelic, and I suspect that Linklater felt toward Black as Fellini did, working with Rota. This was a perfect vehicle for Black, showcasing his dancing/musical abilities, his comedic character chops and, amazingly, his ability to convincingly range into the serious drama of a deeply feeling man's moral crisis.

It was great to see MacLaine here. After the shameful misuse of her in the execrable "Mitty", her fine performance in Bernie redeems her nicely.

In short, a superb piece of aim-straight-for-the-heart filmic storytelling, and highly recommended.

I almost never do this, but while I would normally rate this a '9' (meaning, "perfect, with minor remonstrances"), I'm marking it '10', in part to try to do my part to yank it up from the sub-'7' doldrums.

All participants in this production should be very proud of their fine work.
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This movie is about a man (Bernie) who befriends everybody in his town, becomes a suspect for a murder
sequinn-367-26550816 November 2013
Can I just say, I freaking love indies!! This is definitely a favorite! It's so funny and interesting and brilliant. I mean the fact that it is based on a true story, makes it even more real. I just love how they brought it too screen. It was very documentary like and funny, interesting and sentimental kind of. It is a dark comedy, so if you don't like that stuff, don't watch it. I think this is was Jack Black's best performance ever. I loved his character, it was very real and connecting. Also this was probably McConaughey's best as well. I highly recommend watching this, (yes it's on Netflix) it has great acting, great actors great everything. Just watch it. Rate: 10/10 Rated: PG-13 Film Directed by Richard Linklater
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An unsolved mystery wrapped in a dark comedy
dfranzen7015 January 2013
Although uneven and at times unfocused, Bernie is the kind of movie that hitches its wagon to the charisma of its star and goes along for the ride. Jack Black plays a solicitous, generous assistant funeral-home director in a small town who quickly gains the love and respect of the town, particularly the elderly folks, as he immerses himself into their lives. Black leaves the slapstick and crudity at home and instead goes the route of Ben Stiller in Greenburg, although not quite as dramatic, and he's really good in the role. In the end, though, one might wonder what the point of the movie was, and for a comedy - even a dark one - there are a lot of unanswered questions at film's end.

Bernie arrives in town and lucks upon a job at the local funeral parlor. He takes great care in making the deceased look as good as possible, from trimmed eyelashes to the positioning of the hands and head. Bernie takes his job seriously. He runs the funerals, leading the mourners in song, reading from the Bible, and so on; he comforts the widows and does all he can to ease their pain. He's a true find, right?

One of these old biddies is Mrs. Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a despised, bitter older woman who has money and no friends whatsoever. All overtures to communicate and bond with Mrs.Nugent by the town are for naught. Except for Bernie, who - as his custom - pays his respects after the funeral to the new widow. After the second visit, she invites him in, and over some time they become friends. The change in Mrs. Nugent is remarkable; she is a nicer person and much happier. She and Bernie go on vacations and other trips together. Finally, she feels, someone who does not hate her.

Mrs. Nugent gets Bernie to quit his job at the funeral home and work for her part time - essentially as a servant. Seems like a sweet deal at first, but eventually she becomes paranoid that he'll leave her at any moment, and he becomes concerned that she's turning into quite the possessive witch. That, as the synopsis might tell you on other sites - this is not a spoiler - induces him to perform a most heinous deed.

The story is told in the framework of a documentary, with on-camera exposition provided by the town's denizens. Most are gossipy, but none of them stand out as mean-spirited - just normal folks, as they might say. About the only two characters who don't open up to the camera are Bernie and Mrs. Nugent themselves. This little trick by director Richard Linklater helps not only move the plot along but also serves us sometimes conflicting information, depending on the source - even when we see things with our own eyes.

The first half of the story is amusing, mostly about how wonderfully generous Bernie is to everyone. And then the crime occurs, and the various citizens react differently. But here's the rub - Bernie is such a magnificent guy, there are some who don't even care if he IS guilty. Star district attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey) has an open-and- shut case, complete with a confession. All that remains is the trial and the aftermath.

This is more of a character study - of Bernie alone - than anything else. It could have been played for sharp laughs or even as a suspenseful thriller. Linklater plays it more or less straight, essentially saying, "Here's your man, here's what others think of him, what do you think?" And indeed, what are we to think? There are some head-scratching questions by the end. Here's a non-spoiler one: Why was Bernie even in that town? Did he choose it randomly? Did he premeditate the events that unfolded? Okay, three questions, but all valid. None will ruin the movie for you. See it for Black and MacLaine and a realistic look at small-town Texans.
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The Film Sneaks Up On You and Pulls The Rug...In A Nice Way!
museumofdave20 February 2013
I never thought Id be writing an appreciation of Jack Black as an actor, as he generally appears in limited roles as a boorish loudmouth, but in this dark, often sweet oddball satire, his performance as the titular character is never over the top, always gentle and subtly directing the viewer to a sympathetic portrait of a killer. Really outstanding in this sharp observational film is the sharp ensemble work by everyone in the cast, a huge supporting cast, some actual folks from Carthage, Texas, each giving a positive spin on character, with Matthew McConaughey continuing his string of outstanding portrayals--this film, Magic Mike, and the new Oliver Stone film shows he is much more than the usual goofy sex symbol And although her role is the kind Shirley MacLaine could do in her sleep, she makes wealth and privilege seem absolutely frightening in her chilly portrayal of a spoiled heiress we want to watch. I was also impressed by the end titles, which allow us a glimpse of each actor and the role played. This is 98 minutes of delight, a worthwhile satire combined with the creepy qualities of a true oddball character portrait!
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An Incredible True Story!
g-bodyl29 November 2014
Richard Linklater is one of cinema's most important and influential filmmakers there is today and this film, Bernie really shows those traits. He really know how to make films based off small towns and their characters. The story that he tackles here is a really unique and strange premise, and that works in the movie's favor. The film is charming, if not somewhat eccentric. The movie has gotten me interested in the real-life situation, so it may be time to hit the research books.

Linklater's film is about a man named Bernie Tiede who happens to be this well-loved man that is highly involved with the community. He is even able to befriend an elderly woman named Marjorie Nugent, who is despised in the town of Carthage, Texas. But one day, something clicks in Bernie and he kills Marjorie. The townspeople are shocked after hearing about Bernie being arrested.

Jack Black gives his best performance in years. He was magnificent as Bernie and although he gave up a creepy vibe at times, he truly flourished as Bernie. He did a good job in turning into a man who doesn't seem to realize the grave consequences of his actions. Shirley MacLaine does a great job as the elderly Marjorie, and did I ever hate her character! Matthew McConaughey does a good job as the prosecutor who is coming under fire for convicting Bernie.

Overall, Bernie is a wacky crime film, but it's entertaining. It's also funny, but not in the riotous kind of way. More of an amusing chuckle kind of way.....which is a great thing. I liked the style of the film and how it was filmed mockumentary-style. The real townspeople being interviewed was a good heads up on Linklater's part. Another reason why he is such a magnificent filmmaker. A very good, unique film. I rate this film 9/10.
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Comedy and intelligent can go together
It is not often that a comedy so intelligent and refined, such as Bernie, that comes along. First and foremost making a comedy out of a real life dramatic story is an accomplishment in its own right. On to that add Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McCounaghey and you got just about the right ingredients.

Bernie is the nicest person a small town has ever known who ends up committing a murder, thus posing the question: if the perpetrator of a crime is highly regarded and the victim is not, does this make the crime any lesser?

Superb performances by McCounaghey and Black, intelligent dialogue, and a dual format that of film documentary assures you of a good time at the cinema.

Often comedies have a tendency to be lame, which is confused as humour and Bernie was undoubtedly a breath of fresh air.
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Highly entertaining tale of townspeople losing moral compass after seduction by charming assistant funeral director
Turfseer22 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
'Bernie' is based on a true story about Bernie Tiede, an assistant funeral director, who comes to the small town of Carthage, Texas and endears himself to its residents. Ironically, there's a scene later in the film, where Bernie becomes involved in a local community production of 'The Music Man', playing the beloved con man, Harold Hill. Bernie essentially becomes a modern day con man and just as the residents of the fictional town of River City fell for the sweet charms of the smooth-talking Hill (and later forgave him for his transgressions), the same happened with Bernie Tiede in Carthage. But while Hill was guilty of larceny and impersonation, Bernie ended up guilty of much more!

'Bernie' is shot in the style of a pseudo-documentary, with some of the actual townspeople in Carthage, periodically recounting both their impressions of their former neighbor as well as the events that led to his downfall. The odd thing is that they never had a bad word to say about him. Quite the contrary, the community seems to have regarded Bernie as the nicest guy that ever came to their small town.

Bernie's strategy for endearing himself with the community is to go the extra mile in his position as assistant funeral director. Even after the funerals are over, he'll go over to the widow's homes and bring them flowers. He also ingratiates himself with the men of Cartharge by helping them with tax advice. Before you know it, just about everybody in Cartharge knows who Bernie is, and loves him to the hilt.

Bernie has a penchant for spending a great deal of money on credit and develops a habit of giving out presents to various townspeople. His ship comes in when he meets Marjorie Nugent, an extremely wealthy widow, who is hated by just about everyone in town, due to a bad case of unrelenting meanness. Nugent makes Bernie her personal assistant and eventually drives him crazy with her need for constant attention. SUPER SPOILERS AHEAD. She berates him and nags him to the point where he impulsively shoots her in the back four times with one of her own rifles. Bernie stuffs the body in a freezer and pretends she's still alive. As Marjorie was so disliked in the community and had no communication with her relatives, it took about nine months before her stockbroker managed to convince the police to search the house.

The humor in 'Bernie' is due to the myopic view of the townspeople. Because Marjorie was so hated and Bernie, so beloved, most of the people in Carthage are willing to forgive him for his 'sins'. Some even go so far to insist that Bernie is innocent, despite his immediate confession to the police. When the District Attorney has Bernie's trial moved to San Antonio, Bernie's defense attorney bemoans the fact that this is the first time in his career that a trial is moved because the defendant's peers view him as innocent. Carthage townspeople end up expressing anger and frustration toward the San Antonio jury, who in their eyes, are unable to understand why Bernie is such a 'good guy'.

The performers here are a hoot, particularly Matthew McConaughey as DA Danny Buck Davidson. Jack Black transforms himself into a gay charmer turned murderer with aplomb and Shirley MacLaine, in a limited role, conveys the wealthy widow's narcissism to a tee. But it's the actual people of Carthage that steal the show and make this offbeat indie, highly entertaining.

'Bernie' begins to slow down at the end, as there are few surprises when he's put on trial and the defense attorney is no match for the wily District Attorney. But Bernie's story on the whole is quite engrossing not only as a fascinating character portrait but for its analysis of how an entire group of townspeople is seduced, leading to a breakdown of their moral compass.
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Bernie delivers a story so crazy it has to be true
rgblakey21 August 2012
There are movies that come along that fall in the comedy category, but are based on series material so take a big risk at trying to make it work. Richard Linklater and Jack Black have reteamed up for Bernie bringing along Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine with them. This film is based on true events that are based on an unfunny concept, but is striving to deliver just that. Is it possible to have this cast and director together and not deliver a good movie or is there a reason it didn't get a wider release?

Bernie follows the story of a beloved funeral director who befriended a widow known for being just the opposite with a sour attitude on life. After slowly taking over her affairs, she becomes fully dependent on him increasing her demands to almost unbelievable proportions. After the towns people do not see her for months her body is discovered and none other than Bernie is charged with the murder. This movie is crafted in a genius way that tells this unique dark funny tale as well as makes it feel almost like a documentary. Throughout the film there are testimonials with various townspeople that are really entertaining and become the center piece to making this film work. Jack Black brings the strange yet likable aspect to this weird little man to brilliant life with one of his best performances to date. Working side by side with Shirley MacLaine he held his own like a champ with both of them having some strange chemistry that just worked really well. McConaughey brought another lovable quirkiness to his character that worked so well. This is an interesting film that is really funny and so over the top that it sucks you in that this really happened.

Bernie is one of those unique movies that just work on every level. It seemingly does what they are trying to do, both funny and dark without ever getting too deep into either aspect. Full of great characters, brilliant dialogue, and a story like no other, Bernie is a must see film for not only fans of the actors involved, but for everyone.
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Jack Black at his finest!
russevansmail19 June 2012
Finally got to see this amazing film over the weekend. I wasn't sure what to expect, not a huge fan of MacLaine and even less of McConaughey, but wow! From the opening scene to the closing credits, this film flat-out delivers.

From the quirky cast of townspeople - which in and of themselves are completely worth the price of admission - to the two co-stars and the Incredible Mr Black, this film was perfection.

Those of you who love the traditional jack Black, there is plenty of musical comedy to keep you happy, no worries there. His renditions of classic gospel songs equals anything he has done to date! MAJOR kudos to the casting team on this one, you nailed it! One complaint - how did McConaughey get first billing on the "BERNIE" page on IMDb?? Really IMDb, really?? SEE THIS FILM!!
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An Absolute Miscalculation
samkan11 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
After reading Rolling Stone's account of the actual crime, framed by the filming of this movie, I walked out of the theater disappointed. The story of Bernie and Majorie is poignant and makes a good magazine read but is not extraordinary or compelling enough for book-length treatment or psychoanalytic examination. But it certainly could serve as a great topic for a black comedy sprinkled heavily with suspense and allowing the cast plenty of poetic license. In planning for such, Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine are perfect casting choices. Instead, here's what you get: Thirty, maybe FORTY percent of BERNIE is interviews with actual townsfolk or actors which, instead of supporting the storyline, plot, etc., actually interrupt what little movement is achieved. If sometimes humorous, the cuts to interview eventually become groan inducing and are so pervasive that the dramatic portions take a backseat. Its like watching an A&E documentary with short "dramatic reenactments" peppered in. As such, neither Black nor MacLaine get to "take off" and get no chance to inhabit their characters. There's nary any effort to depict how Bernie and Majorie "bonded". Comic opportunities with their road trips are wasted. In short, BERNIE should have been seen as a great opportunity to entertain us with good writing, acting and movie making. Instead, it chooses to take very seriously a real-life tragedy that simply does not rise to the level of great stuff.
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Most entertaining movie of 2012 so far
bobbobwhite21 May 2012
Jack Black could not be surpassed in his spot-on perfect role as a smooth, calm, perfectly groomed and organized, sycophantic, servile, gay/asexual "assistant funeral director" in this small East TX community composed mostly of country oddballs and other distinctive rural folk that were hilarious in their own right. The story was based on real events, and real townspeople who knew the real Bernie were used for extras/characters, and some were so good that it was clear that they could have been real actors if they had chosen that direction instead of staying in Carthage, TX and knowing the real Bernie. They gave hilarious insights into Bernie and his story that otherwise would not have been so uniquely entertaining and effective if actors were used instead.

Jack as Bernie exposed some serious singing/dancing chops too, as he not only was a meticulous funeral home star, he also starred in church and social activities that only someone who had his great talent to please and entertain in his heart could ever do. But, Bernie perhaps showed his greatest talent as the only person in town who could tolerate and even befriend Mrs. Nugent(a really old Shirley MacLaine), the town's presiding meanest old bitch. After he slowly became irreplaceable to her by always agreeably doing her ridiculous bidding, she hired Bernie to travel the world with her on her dime and to be her personal manservant/slave, which sadly decomposed to a low point where the shocking and unbelievable event that caused Bernie's downfall was sure to happen.

This hilarious mockumentary is making a serious surge to the head of the line for "Best Movie of 2012 So Far". Don't miss it.
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There is an indispensable subtext regarding the enclosing nature of religious communities that belies the film's quirkiness and peculiarity
Likes_Ninjas9019 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is based on the true story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), who is the nicest man in the town of Carthage, Texas. He is an assistant funeral director, attending to widows and speaking and singing at funerals too. The townsfolk of Carthage lavish praise on Bernie for his unconditional kindness. Yet for all of his goodness, there is equally as much innuendo surrounding Bernie's private life. Some people question whether he is gay but others believe that he is romantically involved with Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a cranky widow who is disliked immeasurably by the entire town. She takes full advantage of Bernie's generosity, gradually enslaving him with his own generosity. The town is shocked when Bernie, discouraged by Marjorie's lack of empathy, shoots the woman in the back repeatedly and is imprisoned. The town remains in full support of Bernie but district attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey), who doesn't care how nice Bernie is, and is determined to have him sentenced for murder.

Following School of Rock (2006), Richard Linklater's second film starring Jack Black is a black comedy, well-acted, unusual and uproariously funny. There's no irreverence here in turning a true murder into a comedic tale either because there's great intent and purpose to how the humour is used. Linklater, who wrote the screenplay with Skip Hollandsworth, uses the comedic element to bridge the distance between the audience and what is a closed, remote community. Real East Texan citizens are used as extras in the film, which means that the film could not be accused of forgetting their humanity, even when they throw their judgement down on the rest of Texas, which they believe to be divided into discrete parts. "More tattoos than teeth," is how one man describes the jury that Bernie faces in another part of the state. Through the use of comedy, the film amounts to is a story about segregation and the way that people use their personal bonds, like religion, to protect the members of their own private community. Engaging with mockumentary features, including interviews with the Texans, the film is fascinating in its own impartiality and moral ambiguity. Marjorie is characterised as a truly horrible person, played with unrelenting coldness by MacLaine, and seems overtly willing to torment Bernie, using even the slightest mannerisms to antagonise him. But the film never glosses over the fact that he did shoot her repeatedly in the back with a rifle, left her body in a freezer for months and spent her money on the town. The reaction of the community, in defending Bernie, is a more significant subject for the film than taking either side of the law. One of the most darkly funny moments is when a woman states: "He only shot her four times, not five". The ironic tone of the dialogue reveals the arguably elitist nature of the community, and it is their acceptance of Bernie, and not Marjorie, which in their eyes elevates him above any wrongdoings.

One of the other fascinating moral questions of the film stems from the monetary aspect of the crime. Bernie did spend Marjorie's money after her death, not for himself but to help to develop the town. He gave money to people so that they could buy children's play equipment and also develop a Sunday school at the Methodist church. This asks us whether destruction can ever be a form of creation and arguably the town's support for this notion appeals to their interpretation and response to the Bible itself. The film's moral ambiguity and interest is further balanced by Jack Black's amusing and surprising performance. It did take a while for me to warm to him because he's flamboyant as I have never seen him like that before and I wasn't sure at times whether I was meant to be laughing, especially when he is singing. Progressively though, Black shows depth in ways that I would describe as delicate and subtle, words not often associated with the big man. The strength of his increasingly watchable performance coincides with the transformation of his character. In selective close-up shots, Black reveals his gradual intolerance for Marjorie, as she takes total advantage of him, followed by the disillusionment with his own reckless actions. His lack of self- understanding and disbelief in himself characterises him tragically but we still remember that he is responsible and holds little explanation. At the other end of spectrum is Matthew McConaughey who is very funny as a toothpick chewing district attorney. When asked to comment on Bernie he says: "He's angel alright! An angel of death!" That line brought some big laughs at the screening. Watching him dismantle Bernie during the trial proves as tense as any scene from a summer blockbuster. As a moderately scaled film, this is as dramatic or as emotionally involving as the narrative becomes. But unlike a lot of contemporary comedies, there is an indispensable subtext regarding the enclosing nature of religious communities that belies the film's quirkiness and peculiarity.
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