In small-town Carthage, Texas, local assistant mortician Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a beloved member of the community, becomes the only friend of the wealthy, recently widowed Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), who is widely considered cold and unpleasant by the other townsfolk.
Tiede, in his late 30s, and the elderly Nugent quickly become inseparable, frequently traveling and lunching together, though Tiede’s social life becomes hindered by Nugent’s constant and sometimes abusive need for his attention.
Tiede murders Nugent after growing weary of the emotional toll of her possessiveness, persistent nagging and non-stop putdowns. For nine months, Tiede takes advantage of her poor reputation to excuse her absence with few questions while using her money to support local businesses and neighbors. Finally, Nugent’s stockbroker becomes concerned by her absence and enlists the help of her estranged family by using Tiede’s neglect of payments previously agreed upon by the family.
This results in an authorized police search of her house that concludes with the discovery of her body in a meat freezer. The local district attorney, Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey) charges Tiede with first-degree (premeditated) murder. Tiede is arrested and he soon confesses that he killed Nugent while claiming her emotional abuse as a mitigating circumstance.
Director: Richard Linklater
Year of Release: 2011
Character to watch: Jack Black as Bernie Tiede.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?