Did You Hear the One about the Aunt in a Freezer?
Australia: 16th August, 2012 USA DVD Release 21st August, 2012
Other Countries: Release Dates
The title of the April 2012 article in the New York Times says it all, “How My Aunt Marge Ended Up in the Deep Freeze . . .” The article written by Joe Rhodes, the nephew of Marjorie Nugent, (the frozen Aunt), recounts the true-life story of much loved Bernie Tiede, assistant funeral director, and affluent and mean spirited Marjorie in the tiny town of Carthage Texas.
If you weren’t told it was true, you wouldn’t believe it. And even as the end credits of the mockumentary film “Bernie” roll, you sit there still mesmerised by the attitudes of the townsfolk, who just can’t believe that in 1996 their beloved Bernie turned murderer. Even if he was a killer, the consensus of the townsfolk is he should be given a medal not life.
Directed by Richard Linklater, the film chronicles, in documentary style, Carthage’s Bernie (Jack Black) befriending Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), whom Linklater labours to assure us is one of the nastiest human beings you would ever meet. A friendship develops between the 39-year-old Bernie and the 81-year-old millionaire Marjorie and they spend the next few years travelling the world and living the high life on her dime. Eventually, she even writes him into her will and signs over her power of attorney.
Marjorie, who had blossomed during the friendship, increasingly turns more possessive and demanding with Bernie, until one day he snaps, shooting her and disposing of her body in a freezer under the frozen vegetables and pot pies. For the next nine months he then continues as normal with his life, creating ever-changing excuses as to her unavailability, whilst ploughing through two million dollars of her money.
So popular is Bernie, that Danny Buck Davidson, (Matthew McConaughey), the district attorney, faces an uphill battle to convict if the trial is held in Carthage, uttering one of the classic film lines during the trial, “Oh, he’s an angel, all right. An angel of death!”
Says nephew Joe Rhodes, ‘I think my visit to the “Bernie” set may have been more unsettling to some of the cast and crew than it was to me. As Skip Hollandsworth, who co-wrote the screenplay, introduced me around, a few people clearly weren’t sure how to react. Should they apologize for making a comedy about my aunt’s murder? Should they say they were sorry for my loss? I told them not to worry about it. “Bernie’s not the first one who thought about killing her,” I told them. “He’s just the first one who went through with it.”
Like all black comedies, the comedy in Bernie is that this is something about which you should not be laughing. But when you have real-life characters sprouting lines such as "There are people in town, honey, that woulda shot her for five dollars," you know you have permission to laugh at this tabloid story. And if you don’t read tabloid, go anyway just to watch the three leads bring their ‘A’ game to this display of humanity at its most bizarre.