Cinemaniac: "Bernie" tells the true story of a Texas murder

The Newtonite

Cinemaniac is a blog updated every week that reviews Netflix movies and movies in the theatre.
Cinemaniac is a blog updated every week that reviews Netflix movies and movies in the theatre.

by Jessica Tharaud

4 out of 5 stars

If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted movie to watch on Netflix, then “Bernie” would be a great choice. I liked the originality of the movie, and how it’s funny, but still real.

“Bernie” tells the story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a beloved funeral director in the small town of Carthage, Texas. He befriends an older woman, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), who monopolizes his time and treats him like a servant until he snaps one day and kills her. The story is actually inspired by true events and the real-life murder of Nugent by Bernie Tiede in 1996.

For me, the plot really makes the movie: it’s not so much a comedy, but a comedic rendition of a true story. Townspeople’s reactions and characterizations of Bernie and Nugent are interspersed within the events of the movie, and allow the story to be told in a way similar to a documentary. They also make the movie feel authentically Texan.

Black’s acting is truly spectacular. His mannerisms are so realistic that even the way he walks enhances the believability of his character.

I didn’t like MacLaine’s performance because it seems over the top. For example, when she shouts at Bernie, it seems forced and devoid of real anger. And what bothers me most is that she is the only character in the film that does not have a Texan accent. It’s a small detail, but the accents were very noticeable considering the movie takes place in a rural Southern town.

Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey), the district attorney who prosecutes Bernie, adds another layer of great acting and humor to the movie. The townspeople love Bernie so much that Danny Buck gets approached by them all over town, insisting that Bernie is innocent. In fact, it causes Danny Buck  to request a change of venue for Bernie’s trial, believing that he would not be convicted by a Carthage jury.

Overall, there was very little to critique about the movie. I enjoyed watching the story unravel, and except for a few little things, it couldn’t have been done better.