SXSW Review: BERNIE

By Mark Saldana

 Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

I honestly had no earthly idea that such a fascinating true story inspired this film.  Recently, I have discovered that the less I know about a movie prior to viewing it, the more I enjoy it.  This definitely was the case with this picture.  I hadn’t taken the time to look into the background of the film.  I had not watched any trailers for it either.  I only knew that Bernie is based on actual events, Richard Linklater directed it, and that he filmed some of the movie in the Austin area. 

      Based on the Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth, “Midnight in the Gardenof East Texas”, Linklater tells incredible story of mortician Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) and how he murdered his companion Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) in the small town of Carthage, Texas.  Tiede, a well liked resident ofCarthage, becomes close friends with 81 year-old millionaire widow Nugent.  Tiede eventually moves in with Nugent and begin an unusual and much talked about relationship.  After being treated abusively by Nugent, he shoots her in the back, proceeds to cover up her murder and carries on with his usual routine as if she were still alive.  Nugent’s investment consultant Lloyd (Richard Robichaux) grows suspicious when he can no longer see or speak with her regarding her finances.  He then alerts the authorities and district attorney Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey)  investigates into the matter.

            This movie feels strikingly similar in its tone and humor to Fargo.  For that, it won’t get any originality points from me; however, like Fargo, Bernie effectively puts a comedic spin on an otherwise dark and disturbing true story.   I really enjoyed the well written script by Linklater and Hollandsworth and Jack Black delivers an amazing, Oscar worthy performance.  As Danny Buck Davidson, McConaughey is no slouch either.  It pleases me to see him in an entertaining role instead of his usual phoned-in leading man work he seems to have embraced recently.

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