Monday, August 06, 2012


Bernie is an incredible tale, which actually took place in small-town Texas in the 1990's, Bernie Tiede was the assistant funeral director in Carthage, Texas and, by all accounts was a particularly nice guy- considerate, generous and friendly. He was good at his job and good with people, especially with older women. He was a good singer and very involved with the commuunity.  In his thirties he became the live-in companion of a rich widow in her late seventies named, Marjorie Nugent,  who was almost universally described by Carthage residents as "mean".

Marjorie and Bernie travelled the world in considerable style and Majorie gave Bernie power ofattorney over her affairs. Power of attorney was the upside, the downside was that Majorie was difficult, demanding and kept Bernie on a very short leash. One day in 1996 Bernie shot Majorie, presumably out of frustration, and put her body in the deep freeze, and he wasn't found out for nine whole months. Once he was found out, very few of the residents of Carthage thought he'd actually done it, and if they did think he'd done it they didn't think he should go to jail.

Bernie the movie is cleverly structured.The re-enactment of the story is interspersed with talking heads interviews with real-life Carthage residents and with Matthew McConaughey playing the District Attorney Danny Buck. These interviews give a kind of gossipy flavour to an already incredible and gossip-worthy story which helps build the atmosphere of the film. Jack Black's great acting as Bernie helps build it further.

On one level, this is an amazing story which was well worth telling in its own right. On another level there is a whole raft of philosophical and moral questions to occupy your mind further. Is murder ok if you're provoked? Should really nice guys go to jail? If God can forgive murderers, should we do that too? Was Bernie a scheming gold-digger or did he just have a really bad day?

Once you've watched Bernie you'll feel like you need to pick your jaw up off the floor but you'll also feel like you got to know a bunch of Texans and that you've thought about some things you don't usually think about. Well worth the effort.

Anne's rating:: 4/5. Ian's Rating: 5/5

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