Movie review: Bernie (2011)

Bernie wasn’t exactly what I expected. I was looking for something light. While the movie was categorized as a comedy, it turns out it was based on a true story: a 1996 murder.

Despite the disparity between the type of movie I was looking for and the type of movie it turned out to be, Bernie was a well done and engaging film. The movie progresses through interviews of different town folks who knew Bernie. Bernie was the beloved funeral director in town, who loved everyone, befriended widows, and directed and played in community productions.

As normal, he called on Mrs. Nuget after the passing of her husband. Then normal ended. He got through to Mrs. Nuget in a town where she was intensively disliked for her profound lack of warmth toward others. Bernie and Mrs. Nuget went on outings and trips together. And then she descended into jealous fits over his time, demanding that all his time be spend at her beck and call.

The movie depicts the relationship becoming more and more dysfunctional and abusive. Until one day Bernie snaps. A farce ensues of people asking about Mrs. Nuget but never seeing her. Until nine months later—when she is discovered in her freezer and Bernie confesses, ends up on trial, and is imprisoned.

Jack Black gives a great performance as the beloved funeral director and companion to Mrs. Nuget. Likewise Shirley MacLaine perfects the role of Mrs. Nuget, portraying an utterly disagreeable woman who badgered everyone around her. The district attorney is played by none other than Matthew McConaughey, who seems to have perfected every southern character he has played.

Bernie may not have been the comedy I was looking for (more like a black comedy), but it is an entertaining watch. Very strange to realize after the fact that the movie is based on a 1996 murder. Although Bernie Tiede was sentenced to life in prison, in May 2014 he was released.

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