Bernie is a too-silly-to-be-real crime story from Richard Linklater — only it is real.
Based on a Texas Monthly article, it tells the story of a mortician in Carthage, Texas, who murders the small town's nasty old lady, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). There was no doubt of the crime.
A beloved figure, the sweet title character played by Jack Black sang in the church choir, performed in the community theater and helped everyone out. A few years before the murder, Bernie Tiede and the wealthy widow had developed a relationship, going everywhere together on her dime. Finally, when her demands drove Bernie crazy, he snapped and killed her; then he covered it up for a while.
It would seem an open-and-shut case, but no one in town was interested in convicting the undertaker.
Linklater has a lot of fun bringing out the absurdness of the case and the flavor of small-town Texas. Black captures the arrested development of Bernie, and MacLaine shows the loneliness behind Marjorie's meanness.
Matthew McConaughey adds spice as wily district attorney Danny Buck, and some film of the real Bernie is shown just to remind us that this isn't made up.
Bernie retails for $28.99 or $29.99 Blu-ray.