A Story so unbelievable it must be true! A new movie release with a stand-out cast…
Shirley MacLaine, Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey star in this dark comedy.
The process began for Linklater with a feature story in “Texas Monthly” back in 1998 (read it here), telling of small town funeral director Bernie Tiede (Black) and how he killed a local 81-year-old spinster by the name of Marjorie Nugent (MacLaine). The key to this story, however, isn’t so much the murder, but the town itself and its reaction to the news.
Not only was Mrs. Nugent disliked by most of the town’s 6,500-person population, but Bernie was loved by just about everyone. So when news broke that not only had Bernie killed Mrs. Nugent, but that he had kept it quiet for the better part of nine months, most of them couldn’t believe it and even if they did, the reaction from one such Bernie supporter was to say, “It’s not as bad as people say; he only shot her four times… not five.”
Jack Black fills the role of Bernie perfectly, taking on effeminate characteristics and owning them, convincing you he just may be the nicest and most caring person alive. MacLaine’s performance is hardly in question, her appearance on screen alone is convincing enough, but when it comes to doing what’s necessary to convince the audience she may be one of the worst people to have lived, MacLaine falls right in line. As for McConaughey, at this point I think we can all agree playing a southern lawyer is right up his alley.
Part of the story’s mystery comes when we see how Bernie and Marjorie became rather close. The two traveled together, went to the opera and ultimately began spending large chunks of time together. Seeing how all of this was done on Marjorie’s dime that was enough to raise some eyebrows, but for the most part no one seemed to have cared too much.
However, Marjorie’s negative qualities soon get the best of Bernie, just as they do everyone else, and it almost makes you wonder — Is there ever a justified reason for non-premeditative murder? To ask the people of Carthage you may get a surprising answer in this case, and that is certainly part of this film’s charm.