Black comedy a killer
THIS here’s the true story of Bernie Tiede, a mighty popular fella up north- east Texas way. How popular? Lemme tell you how. Bernie done went and shot an old lady in the back. Four times. Killed her stone dead, he did. Then stuck her body in a freezer in her garage.
Now this didn’t bother the good people of Carthage none. Many of them smalltown folk still reckon that mean old biddy had it coming.
In their book, Bernie Tiede did the wrong thing, but went about it the right way.
Yes, believe it or not, Bernie is a remarkable experience: a feelgood film about murder.
While the subject of the picture got away with nothing for his crime – as you read this, Tiede is sitting in a jail cell – Texan filmmaker Richard Linklater gets off all charges of treating a heavy matter lightly.
Just how he does it comes down to the clever construction of his movie.
This astonishing tale is related in a fauxdocumentary style, with many actual residents who know and love Bernie Tiede to this very day doing much of the talking.
The way they explain how events unfolded between Bernie, a well- respected assistant funeral director and tireless community worker, and Mrs Marjorie Nugent, a notoriously unpleasant widow who ran the local bank, makes the absolutely unforgivable come across as, well, kind of understandable.
Of course, some principal players either refused to participate in the production or were otherwise detained. So some well- known actors were brought in.
Jack Black ( pictured) plays Bernie Tiede, and applies the correct shades of comedy and pathos to his portrait of an odd little man who wanted nothing more than to be liked. And turned out to be mighty good at it.
Shirley MacLaine has the role of Mrs Nugent, and she humanises this difficult and demanding old lady in a manner that never stoops to curmudgeonly caricature.
Completing a trifecta of fine performances is Matthew McConaughey as Danny Buck, Carthage’s showboating district- attorney.
Though not the most likeable figure himself, Buck is merely seeing that justice is done. His presence as the sole voice of reason is important. As are Buck’s incredulous responses to how the whole of Carthage can view him as a bigger villain than Bernie.