While a majority of “Based on a True Story” projects tend to overindulge their artistic license, occasionally something happens in real life that requires little to no alteration on its way to the big screen. Bernie–the tale of a 39-year-old funeral director named Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) who murders his 81-year-old, millionaire companion, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine)–is such a story, Tiede a perpetually winning idealist pushed to his limit by a tyrannical misanthropist. The relationship between these two opposites provides ample fodder for the town’s yakity-yaks, but it’s the murder that sets the community to a boil, pitting the pro-Bernie public against their puffed-up DA, Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey). Director Richard Linklater keys in on the communal aspect of this story, bringing in a mix of actors and real people to serve as the townspeople in a collection of interviews that form the bulk of the film. While the expository nature of the interviews may feel like a shortcut, it’s crucial to conveying the role of the story’s small-town denizens, along with articulating the kind of person Bernie Tiede truly was. (A pretty damned good one, by all accounts.)
In addition to selling its audience on the kindness and virtue of a convicted murderer, Bernie features a seminal performance from Jack Black, and a fascinating glimpse into the politics of a small town.
Great movie and a very unexpected one. I didn’t have high hopes but was very pleasantly surprised. Nice review!
Agreed, this was one of those movies I didn’t see coming. And aren’t those always the best? I just watched The Grey last night and was blown away. Again, had very few expectations coming in.
I wasn’t a fan of The Grey, but can understand why people love it. It has appeared in a lot of best of 2012 top 10 lists. Another movie which really positively surprised me was Pitch Perfect.
I really want to see that. Not sure if I’ll get it in before my comprehensive 2012 list, but I’m gonna make it happen when I can.
Like! You and Jack Black
Just found out about your blog through Filmspotting! Just watched Bernie last night! Great review!
Thanks for following! I actually listened to a Q&A with Richard Linklater today about Bernie (through the Jeff Goldsmith Q&A Podcast) and it shed a lot of interesting light on the movie and his process. Worth a listen if you’re a podcast fan.
I was going to actually and usually try to find a podcast of theirs after I watch one. I’ll definitely take a listen. I just wrote a review on it actually.