BERNIE is based on the true story of an assistant funeral director in a small Texas town who was accused of murdering a rich widow.
What's unique about the movie is that much of the story is told through interviews with eccentric town gossips who knew and liked Bernie.
Man in cowboy hat: He was about the most popular man in Carthage.
Man in shirt and tie: "A real people person. Just made you feel real good about yourself.
Jack Black is Bernie Tiede, the assistant funeral director who sang in the choir, helped little old ladies, and was a generous friend to anyone who needed him...including Shirley Maclaine as Marjorie Nugent, a crabby old widow that nobody liked.
Old lady: she used to tear up my toys, pulled the heads off my dolls.
Bernie: Well, there's some goodness in there too. she doesn't have anyone; she's a very lonely person; she needs someone.
So just after Marjorie's husband dies, Bernie brings her little gifts and quickly something very much like a May-December romance gets started.
Woman: Oh yeah, Bernie took her everywhere.
Man: They went to Russia, Acapulco, New York City. They went to Europe, always first class.
Another man: Somewhere along the way it was just Bernie. He was her servant. She was demanding.
Marjorie to Bernie: You should have been here hours ago!
Marjorie yelling at Bernie: All I want is for you to be a man for once in your life!
Man: I don't know how the guy stood it.
So when Marjorie is murdered and all the evidence points to Bernie, the townspeople rally around him.
Woman: There are people in town, honey, that would have shot her for five dollars.
You get the idea. The filmmaker's use of partly scripted, partly ad libbed interviews with a mix of actors and real townspeople makes for a clever and amusing way to tell Bernie's story at the same time as it deprives the audience of dramatic scenes that might show what caused this once grateful widow to turn into such a jealous beast. So a strength of this movie is also a weakness.
But what also makes the movie entertaining is the terrific performance of Jack Black as Bernie. You won't see any of the actor's trademark grins or smirks in Bernie, a fascinating man whose puzzling character will give you lots to talk about after the movie.
You can read the magazine article that inspired this movie at:
The writer of the article is Skip Hollandsworth who co-wrote the screenplay with director Richard Linklater (DAZED AND CONFUSED, THE WAKING LIFE, BEFORE SUNRISE, THE SCHOOL OF ROCK).