starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey
screenplay by Skip Hollandsworth and Richard Linklater
directed by Richard Linklater
Based on an article in the Texas Monthly magazine Skip Hollandsworth, Bernie is the true story of a 1996 murder in the east Texas town of Carthage. Black plays Bernie Tiede, a funeral director who murdered wealthy 81-year-old widow Marjorie Nugent. It is a black comedy hinging on the fact that the victim was widely despised in the community while the perpetrator was widely loved. The universal praise, respect, admiration and fawning love showered on the murderer is truly bizarre. It is equaled by the universal hate of the victim, as if she deserved to be killed and the killer was doing a public service.
Matthew McConaughey comes across as a politically motivated, vengeful District Attorney unfairly prosecuting Tiede contrary to the public’s embrace of him. The DA’s argument is simple, straightforward and rational: Tiede is a confessed murderer and no matter how awful Ms. Nugent was as a person she didn’t deserve to be summarily executed with impunity. Tiede was so popular in Carthage that the prosecutor had to move the trial to another town to increase chances of a conviction.
I don’t like Jack Black very much. He is great at what he does, but he usually plays stupidly annoying jerks. But his performance as Bernie Tiede feels like truly great character acting to me.
Matthew McConaughey’s mother, Kay McConaughey appears in the film as one of the interviewed townspeople. Interesting.