Bernie (2011)

8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 7/10

Interesting film with an interesting subject

The movie is stylized but not enough

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Bernie

Studio:  Mandalay Visions

Genre(s):  Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):  June 16, 2011 (Los Angeles Film Festival)/April 27, 2012 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13


The all-singing, all-dancing, all-murdering Bernie Tiede!!!

Benie Tiede (Jack Black) has done something that no one in the town can believe.  Tiede has been accused of shooting his benefactor spinster millionaire Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), and no one in the town can believe that the gentle and giving Tiede can be responsible.  The motive behind the crime has the small town of Carthage, Texas talking, but Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey) in a trial to put him away.

Directed by Richard Linklater, Bernie is based on the true story murder of Marjorie Nugent by Bernie Tiede.  The dark comedy was met with critical acclaim and positive reviews for Jack Black who received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.  The movie was based on the article “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas” in Texas Monthly by Skip Hollandsworth who also helped write the script.


I’m gonna bust me a murderer!!!

Bernie was met with some controversy.  The movie was played as a comedy, but many of those involved in the real case did not approve of the movie’s tone and of the portrayal of Marjorie Nugent.  The result is a rather interesting movie that has merit in the questions it raises about crime, intent, and punishment.

The movie could have gone so many different ways, but opted for dark comedy in the vein of Fargo.  The movie almost works like a documentary with headshot interviews with residences of Carthage, Texas.  The difference with Fargo is that though it claims to be based on a true story, it actually was created by the Coen Brothers for the film…here you are playing with real lives which has to be consider.  Linklater puts Bernie as the victim and the suffer of a mental snap, but you don’t get much of the other side of the story.


Hot time at the Nugent home!

Jack Black is quite strong as Bernie who in real life is a bit bigger and more imposing in size, but having watched an interview with Bernie Tiede, Black does seem to capture his persona.  MacLaine portrays Nugent as evil and controlling and produces little sympathy for the aging character who by reports of the town people wasn’t very kind.  Once again, it is one sided so hard to judge which has Matthew McConnaughey coming off as a bit of a jerk as the prosecuting attorney who in reality is doing his job.  The real stars are the various “real” residents of Carthage who provide background (plus an appearance McOnnaughey’s mom as one of the people).


Bernie lives like a king…King Tut!!!

The movie is a bit wackier than you’d expect about a murderer and the visuals also are brighter and more surreal.  The direction changes a bit once the trial starts, but I almost wish that there had been a true surreal vision while times were good.

Bernie is a solid film with interesting discussion points.  The movie had some lasting effects in that in 2014, Bernie Tiede was released early from prison…into Linklater’s custody.  Many argued that the film helped get Bernie off and that it shouldn’t have influenced the case in any way.  Regardless if this is true or not, it gives bigger weight to a film that is already quite interesting.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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