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Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey


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Director Richard Linklater teams with writer Skip Hollandsworth for this darkly comic docudrama detailing the unusual friendship between a likable Texas mortician and a wealthy but reviled widow, and the shocking crime that followed. Inspired by Hollandsworth's 1998 Texas Monthly article that first caught the attention of Linklater, Bernie takes place in Carthage, TX,


Director Richard Linklater teams with writer Skip Hollandsworth for this darkly comic docudrama detailing the unusual friendship between a likable Texas mortician and a wealthy but reviled widow, and the shocking crime that followed. Inspired by Hollandsworth's 1998 Texas Monthly article that first caught the attention of Linklater, Bernie takes place in Carthage, TX, where effeminate mortician Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) enjoys a reputation as a friendly and upstanding member of the community. Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), on the other hand, couldn't hold a lower position on the local social scale. Repressed and bitter, nasty Marjorie has isolated herself from her neighbors, and as a result has been essentially shunned in her small town. The moment Bernie shows Marjorie a shred of kindness, she clings to him tightly and refuses to let go. Meanwhile, as Marjorie becomes Bernie's sugar mama and the pair becomes inseparable, the local rumor mill begins to churn. Eventually, her intense jealousy becomes too much for Bernie to take. When the caustic widow's body is discovered stuffed in her own freezer, local District Attorney Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey) vows that justice will be served, but he finds it difficult to build a convincing case against Bernie as the locals rally to his defense.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
Surprises are memorable, whether they are happy ones or not. Richard Linklater's Bernie presents a story of murder so straightforward that there are no surprises whatsoever, but he does confound our expectations when it comes to the actors. Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is an effeminate assistant funeral director who is beloved in the small town of Carthage, Texas. He is a magnanimous man, forever buying people gifts even though he has almost no money himself, singing in the local church choir, and providing great comfort and emotional stability to the many elderly widows he meets during the course of his job. One day the wealthy and feared Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) needs his services, and soon the mean old bat turns Bernie into her personal valet. While her neediness begins to impinge on his own life, he's too nice to rebel; besides, he doesn't want to pass up all the monetary advantages of being Marjorie's only friend. But eventually he does something drastic in order to get out from under this woman's thumb, which leads tenacious, camera-loving District Attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey) to dig up the truth regarding Bernie's crime. The whole movie rests primarily on the shoulders of Black, whom Linklater turned into a bankable star with School of Rock -- a film that utilized Black's verbally nimble, high-energy likability in ways no other picture quite has. This time, however, Black tries something new. He gives Bernie a high Texas twang that manages to be soothingly gentle while also betraying an abundance of repressed feelings. The character of Bernie fits Black perfectly, allowing him to bring shades of darkness and sadness we haven't seen from him before to his trademark emphatic extroversion. It's the kind of work that announces he's ready and able to handle much more challenging fare than most of us have come to expect from him. It's a superb performance, but it's far from the only one. McConaughey, another actor whom Linklater traditionally gets the best from, shines by curdling his own abundant charm into an unctuous, self-satisfied ambition -- which makes it even more dramatic that his character is the moral center of the story. In addition to his fine work, MacLaine makes an impression with very little screen time. Marjorie is purposefully detestable from the get-go; her Scrooge-like mentality is highlighted at every opportunity, most humorously when she clutches her purse as a local religious figure tells a group of women he's looking for donations. MacLaine plays that moment so beautifully that you can tell the character's distrust and fear are innate, possibly even subconscious. Sadly, though the actors are uniformly excellent, the screenplay by Linklater and Skip Hollandsworth (who wrote the magazine article about the real-life case the movie is based on), doesn't build any suspense. We learn early on what Bernie does, and while that allows Linklater to focus on the nuances his actors bring to their characters, such a decision deadens the dramatic impact of the storytelling. The actors are so good we understand the characters pretty much from the first frame, and that makes the fact that we know how it turns out much more problematic. After the first 30 minutes, there is no sense of discovery -- we're just waiting for the inevitable confrontation between Bernie and Buck to see how the actors play it. Linklater avoids any accusation of exploiting a real murder -- the picture's ambitions are far too small to think that he intended this to be a blockbuster. It has the intimacy and professional quality of a fine made-for-HBO movie, which shouldn't be taken as an insult. It's absolutely worth seeing for Black's skillful work, but if only the filmmaker had added some tension, more people would be interested in seeing such a genuinely great performance.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Alchemy / Millennium
Region Code:
[Wide Screen, Color]

Special Features

Featurettes: Amazing grace, true story to film, the gossips; Deleted scenes; Previews

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jack Black Bernie Tiede
Shirley MacLaine Marjorie Nugent
Matthew McConaughey Danny Buck
Brady Coleman Scrappy Holmes
Richard Robichaux Lloyd Hornbuckle
Rick Dial Don Leggett
Brandon Smith Sheriff Huckabee
Larry Jack Dotson Rev. Woodard
Merrille McCommas Molly
Mathew Greer Carl
Richard Jones Professor Fleming
Charles Bailey Friend of Deceased
Suzi McLaughlin Mrs. Pebworth
Grant James Mr. Eckles
Julie Erickson Mrs. Eckles
J.D. Young Dwayne Nugent
Charlie Stewart Dwayne, Jr.
Joe Stevens Lewie
Raquel Gavia Esmerelda
Amparo Garcia-Crow Churchgoer
Toby Metcalf Oil Worker
Doug Moreland Chainsaw Artist
Edward Ji Pianist
Jill Blackwood Guys & Dolls Performer
David Blackwell Mel
Gabriel Luna Kevin
Deana Newcomb Photographer
David Steakley Assistant Director
Peter Harrell Bank Manager
Joe Reynolds Deputy Sheriff
Christian Stokes Truck Driver
John Hornbuckle Generator Operator
Wray Crawford Sheriff's Deputy #2
Margaret Ann Hoard Cafe Waitress
Charles Allen Eskew IRS Man
Quita Culpepper TV Reporter
Mona Lee Fultz Cashier
Jerry Biggs Judge
Robert Works Lead Juror

Technical Credits
Richard Linklater Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Sandra Adair Editor
Michael Bassick Executive Producer
Rodney Becker Art Director
William T. Conway Executive Producer
Bruce Curtis Production Designer
Glenn Eanes Sound Editor
Don Fox Executive Producer
Jack Gilardi Executive Producer
Liz Glotzer Producer
Justin Hennard Sound/Sound Designer
Ken Hirsh Executive Producer
Skip Hollandsworth Screenwriter
Hardy Justice Co-producer
Todd J. Labarowski Associate Producer
Lisa Brown Leopold Co-producer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Robin Lewis Choreography
Johnny Lin Executive Producer
Matt Williams Producer
Sean McEwen Associate Producer
David McFadzean Producer
Dete Meserve Producer
Duncan Montgomery Executive Producer
Mark Mower Co-producer
Darby Parker Executive Producer
Judd Payne Producer
Kari Perkins Costumes/Costume Designer
Dick Pope Camera Operator,Cinematographer
John Pritchett Sound Mixer
Celine Rattray Producer
Kannoo Ravindran Associate Producer
Graham Reynolds Score Composer
David Rosenblatt Asst. Director
Tiller Russell Associate Producer
Mike Saenz Asst. Director
Jack Selby Executive Producer
Beth Sepko Casting
Martin Shafer Producer
Ginger Sledge Producer
George Sledge Asst. Director
Shane Stanger Associate Producer
Sheila Steele Casting


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