Rated: PG-13

        I have to start by saying that I stared at the DVD cover of Bernie for a long time before I even dared pick it up to investigate.  It’s not that the cover was weird or disturbing in any way; it’s just that it prominently features Jack Black, one of my least favorite actors. I’ve seen plenty of his movies and have found him to be over bearing, pushy, loud and obnoxious and not so skilled in the acting department. I must say though that the old adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover” certainly rang true for me with this movie. I’m glad I finally mustered the courage to pick it up.

                Bernie is the story of a small town assistant mortician in Texas named (you guessed it) Bernie. He was one of Carthage’s most beloved residents. He sang on the choir, taught the local Sunday school and was always available to lend a helping hand in any way he could. He was seen as even more saintly by the townsfolk when he befriended the cranky old widow Marjorie Nugent, played by Shirley Maclain. At first their friendship was as lovely as any friendship could be, but as time went on Marjorie’s demands of Bernie grew and grew. When Marjorie goes missing and Bernie is implicated the question quickly becomes “If the town could forgive such a lovely man, could the law?”

                I was quite shocked at the end of this movie to find that it’s based on a true story. Most of the townsfolk featured in the movie are the real Carthage residents. Bernie Tiede is a real man who was really an assistant funeral director and really killed Marjorie Nugent on November 19, 1996. In fact, the townsfolk loved him so much that the district attorney had to petition to have the trial 50 miles away from Carthage to ensure an unbiased jury. Another shock to me as I was writing this was to find that Bernie Tiede, who was given a life sentence for killing Marjorie, was released from prison on May 6 of 2014 after serving 17 years of his sentence. As an odd condition of his release, he must live with Richard Linklater who wrote and directed the Bernie movie.

                Bernie, (the movie) was nominated for and received quite a few awards when it came out in 2012, despite its fairly poor box office reception. I’m not sure why it did poorly in the box office, but all of its award nods were well deserved. Jack Black showed he has a broader range than just loud and obnoxious as Bernie. Before the credits roll a short bit of film showing Black interviewing Tiede in jail is played, and based on that it’s easy to see what a wonderful job Black did in his portrayal. I think he’d definitely be a bit better received if he were given more roles like this. Shirley Maclain also did an awesome job as Marjorie Nugent. She shows a bit of a dark side in this role that I’ve never seen before. It’s got to be hard to portray a character that you both despise and feel pity for at the same time, but Maclain makes it look easy, as only an old pro like her could do.

                Bernie is an artfully done mash up of dark comedy, drama and documentary. Writer/director Richard Linklater, who is known for such films as Dazed and Confused, Bad News Bears, School of Rock and Fast Food Nation, seems to have stepped out of his traditional realm with Bernie, and I’m glad he did. It’s arguably his best work yet and is a must see for a rainy day.

                Bernie is rated PG 13 and stars Jack Black, Shirley Maclain, Matthew McConaughey as well as many of the Carthage Texas townsfolk. It is available now on DVD, BluRay and digital download.