Saturday, May 26, 2012


This movie review for "Bernie" was written by guest blogger Liz Parker...

Bernie was not at all what I thought it would be, even though I read a few reviews and what some might consider "spoilers" online before seeing it. The movie is based on real events that happened in Texas in 1996, when the companion of a wealthy elderly woman (Marjorie Nugent) shot her four times in the back. He then hid the body and pretended that she was still alive for the next several months until people eventually became suspicious and the police searched his home and found Marjorie's body. The story itself is fascinating, but unfortunately the movie, in my opinion, falls a little flat.

39-year-old Bernie Tiede (Jack Black, The Big Year) is a pillar of the community in Carthage, Texas, the small town where he resides. He's the assistant funeral director at the local funeral home, and he always follows up with the grieving widows afterwards to make sure they are doing okay. He sings in the church choir and everybody in town loves him. He eventually meets 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine, Valentine's Day) when her husband passes away, and he takes a special interest in her. She has children, but is estranged from them, and she takes Bernie on as her companion - not lover, as he was rumored to be gay - and they take many trips together, including vacations to New York City, Russia, and Paris. Soon, however, Marjorie begins to isolate Bernie from his friends and the town, and one day Bernie snaps and shoots her in the back. He then pretends she is sick whenever the townspeople begin to get curious, and he gets away with this charade for the next nine months.

The movie is set up in a documentary-type style, with real-life Carthage residents interspersed with actors, the most recognizable of whom are Black and MacLaine as Bernie and Marjorie, and Matthew McConaughey (The Lincoln Lawyer) as Danny Buck, the District Attorney who eventually goes on to prosecute Bernie. The actors who are playing townspeople all have a "small-town look" about them, and it's impossible to distinguish the real-life people from the actors. The film sets up the events with some zany moments throughout, and I found myself wondering what the people of Carthage will think about this movie and also Marjorie Nugent's relatives.

No, don't see this film. There were some funny parts but overall the movie couldn't really decide if it wanted to be factual or not, and even though Black's, MacLaine's, and McConaughey's performances were "spot-on," it wasn't enough to save the film for me. I found the story to be quite an interesting one, and it was interesting to look on Wikipedia afterwards to compare the real events to those depicted in the movie, but the film moved very slowly and I was constantly checking my watch throughout it. Jack Black's singing in the film was superb (who knew?!) and he does a good job in the title role, but ultimately you would be better off reading about the case online than spending time and money on Bernie.

Bernie is in starting May 25th, and is rated PG-13 with a runtime of 104 minutes; in the metro Detroit area, it is playing at the Main Art Theater, Royal Oak. 2 stars out of 5.

Click here if movie trailer for Bernie is not shown

Liz Parker is a 2009 graduate of the University of Michigan. She currently works as an Assistant Medical Editor for a pathology website. Visit her at her movie blog Yes/No Films
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