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DVD Review: Bernie

August 28, 2012

Bernie – An Alliance Films’ Release

DVD Release Date: August 21st, 2012

Rated PG for language and disturbing content

Running time: 99 minutes

Richard Linklater (dir.)

Skip Hollandsworth (screenplay)

Richard Linklater (screenplay)

Graham Reynolds (music)

Matthew McConaughey as Danny Buck

Jack Black as Bernie Tiede

Shirley MacLaine as Marjorie Nugent

Richard Robichaux as Lloyd Hornbuckle

Our reviews below:


Bernie DVD Review By John C.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) was a much liked man in the small town of Carthage, Texas.  He was the assistant funeral director and would go out of his way to help both the living and the dead, comforting widows for weeks after the funeral.  The elderly Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) was disliked by everyone except for Bernie, and she brought him in to handle her many finances.  But after six years, Bernie could no longer take her controlling attitude, and shot her four times in the back with her own gun.  District attorney Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey) would stop at nothing to bring the case to justice, even if it meant going against the people of the town who had a false sense of security for having Bernie around.

Directed by Richard Linklater, perhaps the strangest thing about Bernie is that the film is based on a true story.  But because actors are used alongside interviews with real people from the town, sometimes it’s hard to tell just how much of the film has been scripted.  We also get the unsettling sense that there are dark secrets about the case and Bernie’s past that have been conveniently brushed under the rug just to garner more sympathy for the character.  The film is worth seeing for Jack Black’s undeniably excellent performance in the title role, just expect an experiment in filmmaking that plays somewhat awkwardly between dark comedy and challenging true crime story.  If nothing else, you should find lots to talk about as the credits roll.

The DVD includes deleted scenes and several featurettes, including ones on Jack Black’s performance and the real case that inspired the film.


Bernie DVD Review By Erin V.  

**1/2 (out of 4)

Based on the strange and true story, Bernie tells of a crime that happened in Carthage, Texas in the early ‘90’s.  Back then, Bernie Tiede (played by Jack Black) was a funeral director in the small town who everyone loved and no one had a bad word for, and ended up befriending the rich and newly widowed Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a woman who was described as mean and everyone seemed to hate.  When Marjorie turned up dead after several months, and Bernie was arrested for the crime, the townspeople still could not believe that Bernie had done it – or if he had, that it was ‘justified’ in some way.

The film is interestingly put together in that Bernie, Majorie, District Attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey), and several others are all played by actors.  The rest of the cast appear to be filled in with actual townspeople, and interviews with them are included.  This seems to make it like a film/doc cross, and whether it blurs the line of what really happened or not is hard to tell (read more into the actual story and see for yourself).

The film is worth seeing for Jack Black’s performance in particular, which is very different from what we’ve seen often from him before.  The rest of the actors all do a good job as well.  It’s well made and the fact it’s based on a true story makes it interesting, especially when paired with the darkly comedic tone that the film often takes.  Still, it’s not quite one you’d put in again and again, so I’d say a rental is fine.


Bernie DVD Review By Nicole

*** (out of 4)

Inspired by a real murder case, Bernie tells a story about how biases can influence a person’s perspective on things.  Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is a well loved undertaker in Carthage, Texas.  He is a good Christian who leads his church choir, donates to charity, and helps people deal with their loss of loved ones.  When Bernie befriends Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), the local curmudgeon who nobody likes, people see him as a nice Christian man who loves everybody.  But when Marjorie ends up dead, none of the townsfolk want to blame Bernie, except for the district attorney (Matthew McConaughey), who just wants to do what’s right.

Jack Black is brilliant as Bernie Tiede, the conflicted man who murdered Marjorie Nugent.  Jack Black captures Bernie’s mental instability perfectly.  However, Bernie would have been an even stronger film if it delved into this more.  It is obvious that, while the murder was inexcusable, Bernie Tiede was not entirely bad or good, but like anyone else, a mix of both.  While this film should have taken a more balanced approach, it is still well made.  The interviews with Carthage’s residents are interesting, giving the film a documentary feel.  I also loved the music in Bernie, which consists of classic hymns.

Bernie is on Tiede’s side, but viewers who are on either side of the case will find this film interesting.


Bernie DVD Review By Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

Part dark comedy, part docudrama, Bernie tries to shed some light on the true story of a small-town funeral director who murders a wealthy and unlikable elderly widow.  Jack Black gives a really good performance as the odd but likeable funeral director, Bernie Tiede.  He enjoys his job in the funeral business and the people in Carthage, Texas can count on him to send them off in style and show kindness to those left behind, particularly rich widows.  Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) is a cranky and demanding wealthy woman disliked by most of the townspeople.  When Bernie pays her some attention, she becomes increasingly attached to him, eventually letting him manage her financial affairs.

When the relationship between them goes sour, Bernie decides enough is enough and permanently silences Marjorie.  The question the movie asks is, did Bernie do the people of Carthage a favour and does he really deserve what’s coming to him?  The local district attorney (Matthew McConaughy) thinks justice needs to be done and what the good folks in Carthage think is irrelevant.

Bernie  is an interesting movie particularly when you learn more about the actual murder case.  I would have preferred if the movie had delved a little deeper into Bernie Tiede’s backstory and developed the character a little more.  But it’s Jack Black’s performance that makes Bernie watchable and keeps the story compelling.  Jack Black fans who enjoy dark comedy will want to check this one out.


Bernie DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Bernie is the true story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), an undertaker in the small East Texas town of Carthage. Bernie was brilliant at his job, extremely sweet and supportive to bereaved families, and a gifted speaker and singer in church services and theatre productions. When her late husband left Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) the richest and meanest widow in town, Bernie became her only friend, constant companion and sole heir. Eventually, his sweet nature could no longer put up with her meanness and in 1996 she disappeared. Bernie told people she had been moved to a nursing home, so for nine months no one really missed her before her body turned up. Despite a tearful confession and the vigorous prosecution of DA Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey), most townsfolk took Bernie’s side.

Richard Linklater directs his own screenplay with every scene perfectly written, shot and edited in the style of a mockumentary like Waiting for Guffman, despite keeping reasonably close to the facts. Jack Black’s performance is brilliantly realized in every gesture and inflection, balancing charm and dignity with his inimitable comic touch. Shirley MacLaine does her best within the narrow range of her character, and Matthew McConaughey carries his part with all the swagger we can expect. The large supporting cast is so authentic that it is hard to believe they are all actors and not actual townsfolk. Finally, the church and country music score provides a perfect accompaniment for the action on screen.


Consensus: Although some might feel awkward about the way that Bernie mixes interviews with dark comedy, the film is worth seeing for Jack Black’s brilliant performance and is sure to get people talking about the strangely true crime that inspired it.  **3/4 (Out of 4)

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