Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr


Bernie is a bizarre movie unlike any I have ever seen, but that is not a bad thing. It is the most entertaining film of the year. It is unusual because it uses a combination of actors and real life people who are familiar with the true story the movie is based on. I did not know this while I was watching the film, and I was amazed at how authentic some of the characters were. They said the most honest and heartfelt things, and you believed every word they were saying. I now know this was because they were using their own words to retell a story they knew all too well. Bernie is part documentary and part movie that gets weaved together in a way that is seamless and fun to watch.

Bernie is a dark comedy about an assistant funeral director in East Texas who murders a rich widow. If you think you know where this is going, think again. It is not a story of greed, and it is more about small town life than maybe anything else. Bernie (Jack Black) lives to please people, especially older ladies. After Marjorie Nugent’s (Shirley MacLaine) husband dies, Bernie befriends the cantankerous widow. Miss Nugent is a wealthy woman who is disliked by every one in town. There is no other way to put it than she is a mean old woman. Bernie is able to break through Miss Nugent’s hard shell and discover her softer side, but it doesn’t take long for Miss Nugent to mistreat Bernie as she has everyone else in her life. When Miss Nugent goes missing no one seems to notice, except for her stock broker. When the news finally breaks that Miss Nugent was found in her freezer with four bullet holes in her back, no one believes it was Bernie. Even after Bernie confesses the townspeople do all they can to support him. Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey), the district attorney, who seems to be only concerned with getting himself reelected according to the townspeople, has to go above and beyond to try the case.

There is more to Bernie than an interesting story about a small town murder in East Texas. It offers the viewer a humorous and accurate look at small town life. I have lived in small towns in both Texas and Oklahoma, and I don’t think I have seen a more revealing and funny look at what it is like to live in a small town. The people in the film are genuine and tell you exactly how they feel. They don’t hold back, and this leads to some hilarious statements. The film also captures how the small town of Carthage, TX believes the system got it wrong. Some people are sweet and maybe a little naive, but others understand the ins and outs of the case, but believe the system failed. The film offers a look at genuine Americans who are caring and understanding. They understand that not all cases are black and white, and although Bernie killed Miss Nugent he may not not be the vicious murderer some made him out to be.

I would not call Bernie a Christian movie, but Christianity is a major part of the film. There may be more scenes that take place in a church or funeral sanctuary than anywhere else. The soundtrack is made up of many well known Christian hymns. At the end of the film one woman talks about how Jesus has forgiven Bernie, and one has to wonder if Jesus has forgiven Bernie, then why can’t we? If that was all there was, then it might be simple, but the story of Bernie and Carthage, TX is more complicated than that. Yes, I believe in forgiveness, but it was also apparent that no one cared for Miss Nugent. It may be easy to forgive when a very likable person murders a very unlikable person, but what if the opposite happened? How would the town feel then? I like the theme of forgiveness at the end of the movie, but maybe it is a forgiveness that doesn’t cost the townspeople all that much. Bernie is an outstanding film. Rarely does a movie come along with as much heart, humor, and intrigue as Bernie. Go see it! You will not be disappointed.

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