Bernie Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
We are first introduced to Mr. Bernie Tiede (played by Jack Black) when he shows a group of students learning the mortician trade how to cosmetically prepare a body for an open casket funeral. Any squeamish audience members may be ready to pack it in right there, but viewers who persist will discover the film has far more disquieting information to impart than just the depiction of an undertaker comfortable with his job.
Based on a true story, the movie unfolds in a mockumentary style, meaning it pretends to be a documentary by using interviews (mostly with actors, although some are people who did know the real life Bernie) to supply the narrative. As the townsfolk begin to describe the Louisiana native who moved to the East Texas town of Carthage to take a job as an assistant funeral director, there glowing complements are tinged with a hint of foreboding because they all talk of him in the past tense.
Charismatic, conscientious, and kind to a fault, the slightly effeminate man has no problem fitting into the small community. He’s a great gospel singer in the church choir, a popular member of the local drama club, a sincere casket salesman, and has a gift for details that makes any funeral service a special event—one that you almost look forward to. But what he does best is taking care of the DLOL (Dear Little Old Ladies). And in his business there is no shortage of grieving widows thankful for a little tender loving care.
It is at the memorial service for her late husband that Bernie first meets Marjorie Nugent (played by Shirley MacLaine). Arguably the wealthiest woman in Carthage, she is also the nastiest, meanest and most despised citizen. Perhaps it is because she presents such a formidable challenge that Bernie decides he wants to be the one to crack this tough nut. Or maybe it’s just the money. Whatever the reason the charming mortician takes it upon himself to befriend the friendless Marge.
Amazingly a relationship does develop between these two opposites. In no time Bernie is her personal assistant, financial consultant, travel companion and soul beneficiary of her will. At first it appears the thirty-plus man has found a whole new creature inside the testy, almost 80-year-old. But then Marge’s old habits creep back and soon she is emotionally manipulating him while monopolizing all his time. As it turns out, it is Mrs. Nugent that cracks the benevolent Bernie.
Although the film’s promotional materials do not try to keep the eventual murder a secret, it still seems to come as a surprised when it occurs. Suddenly any amusement derived from watching the cranky old bat batter the good-natured undertaker dies. But the movie still continues to take a humorous approach to the remainder of this morbid tale.
Billed as a black comedy, Bernie does deliver great performances for those appreciative of this genre. (Both Black and MacLaine have received award nominations.) With the quirky characters (including Matthew McConaughey as a hotshot DA) and oddball facts, it is little wonder this crime garnered the attention of moviemaker Richard Linklater. However, a smattering of course language, the use of a sexual expletive, and a casual attitude about death and murder may have families feeling this production no laughing matter.Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey. Running time: 99 minutes. Theatrical release April 26, 2012. Updated July 17, 2017
Rating & Content Info
Why is Bernie rated PG-13? Bernie is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some violent images and brief strong language.
Violence: A scene details the cosmetic preparation of a body for a funeral. A character attempts to shoot a pesky animal. A man shoots a woman (the weapon is seen but not the impact). Later the victim’s dead body is shown (no blood or details are depicted). Characters discuss a body that has been frozen, and pictures of the corpse are shown in court. A mock car accident intended to keep students from drinking and driving includes very graphic bloody injuries.
Sexual Content: Characters debate about the gender preference of a man, as well as speculate about his relationship with an older woman. Mild sexual references are heard. Handholding and other forms of affection are seen.
Language: Frequent use of moderate profanities, mild cursing and scatological slang. One strong sexual expletive is heard. Infrequent ethno-cultural slurs.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Infrequent portrayals of alcohol use and smoking. Medical prescriptions are mentioned.
Other: Frequent portrays of Christian worship services and gospel music singing, sometimes in a sarcastically negative light.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
More parents' guide for Bernie after the break...
Bernie Parents' Guide
How do you feel about the telling of this story? Is the use of comedy disrespectful to the deceased? Why do we sometimes find humor in very serious situations? Does the construction of the script sway your opinion about the guilt of the accused?
The most recent home video release of Bernie movie is August 20, 2012. Here are some details…
Home Video Notes: Bernie
Release Date: 21 August 2012
Bernie releases ton Blu-ray with the following extras:
- True Story to Film behind-the-scenes featurette
- The Gossips featurette on Carthage’s real-life townspeople
- Special performance of “Amazing Grace” by Jack Black