Bernie is a 2011 dark comedy directed by Richard Linklater, starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McConaughey. The film is based on a true story and revolves around the titular character, Bernie Tiede, a mortician in the small town of Carthage, Texas. At the beginning of the film, Bernie is a beloved member of the community who is known for his kindness and generosity. He is particularly well-liked by older women, who appreciate his gentle nature and impeccable manners. One day, he meets Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a wealthy and cantankerous widow who has a reputation for being difficult to get along with. Despite Marjorie's abrasive personality, Bernie takes a liking to her and begins to visit her regularly.
Over time, the two become close, and Bernie becomes a sort of caretaker for Marjorie, running errands for her and providing companionship. However, as their relationship deepens, Marjorie becomes increasingly possessive and controlling, and Bernie starts to feel trapped.
Eventually, Bernie snaps and kills Marjorie, stuffing her body in a freezer in her house. He then goes about his normal routine, pretending that Marjorie is still alive, until he is eventually caught by the police.
Throughout the film, there is a framing device in which various members of the community comment on Bernie's character and the events that led up to the murder. Their differing perspectives and opinions provide context for the story and add to its overall sense of tragedy.
One of the most striking things about Bernie is Jack Black's performance in the lead role. Black, who is known primarily for his comedic roles, effectively channels Bernie's gentle demeanor and quiet desperation. He also does an impressive job of mimicking Bernie's speaking style and physical mannerisms, which helps to create a fully-realized character.
Another standout performance comes from Shirley MacLaine, who plays Marjorie with just the right amount of venom and vulnerability. Despite being an unlikable character, Marjorie is never portrayed as a one-dimensional villain, and MacLaine imbues her with a sense of pathos that makes her death all the more tragic.
Additionally, Matthew McConaughey is excellent as Danny Buck Davidson, the district attorney who prosecutes Bernie. McConaughey brings a sense of gravitas to the role and makes Danny Buck a formidable opponent for Bernie in the courtroom scenes.
The film's tone is tricky to pin down; it's a black comedy that also has moments of genuine sadness and tragedy. However, the filmmakers manage to strike a balance that feels both true to the story and satisfying for the viewer.
One of the film's strengths is its sense of place. Carthage, Texas is a real town, and Linklater takes full advantage of its small-town charm and quirks. The various characters who appear throughout the film feel like real people, and their opinions and perspectives add depth to the story.
Overall, Bernie is a compelling and darkly funny film that is anchored by strong performances from Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McConaughey. It's a story that is both strange and sad, and it's a testament to the filmmakers' skill that they are able to capture both sides of that coin so effectively.
Bernie is a 2012 comedy. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.8 and a MetaScore of 75.