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Movie Night: 'Bernie' Dark But Lovable

Jack Black's performance is just as charming as the real Bernie Tiede, a convicted murder.

About 15 minutes after the lights went down at the Rafael Film Center and the show started, I remembered that the movie I was watching was based on actual events. My brain had a lot of trouble processing that one as I watched Bernie.

The movie Bernie is certainly a dark comedy, but the events in Texas that inspired the story are just too incredible to believe.

Jack Black is just as charming in the title role as the real Bernie Tiede, one of the most beloved residents of Carthage, Texas, despite the fact that he's a confessed murderer.

The original case stole national headlines in 1996-97, after it was discovered Bernie had shot 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent and stuffed her in a freezer for nine months.

In the movie, Bernie is so popular — and his victim so unpopular — the district attorney (portrayed by Matthew McConaughey) had the trial moved to Austin because no one in Carthage would have convicted Bernie.

Shirley MacLaine is outstanding and outrageous as the wicked and wealthy widow Mrs. Nugent. No one in town likes her and she doesn't seem to like anyone in town, until Bernie, an assistant funeral director, comes along determined to cheer her up after her husband's funeral.

They establish an odd companionship. Is Bernie just a gigolo? That's a question asked but never really answered during interviews with real Carthage residents spliced into the movie. No one is certain if Bernie is using Mrs Nugent or if she's using him. And no one can quite figure out how Bernie tolerated her for so long.

The real Tiede is serving life in prison for the murder of Mrs. Nugent and isn't eligible for parole until 2027. Austin attorney Jodi Callaway Cole, however, believes the movie could present a case for an appeal.

Here's a look at what's showing in local movie theaters this weekend:

Lark Theater

Moonlight Kingdom: 8 p.m., (7 p.m. Sunday)

Brave: 5:45 p.m.,  (4:45 p.m. Sunday)

Century Cinema Corte Madera

The Bourne Legacy: 12:40 p.m., 3:50 p.m., 7 p.m., 10:10 p.m.

Century Larkspur Landing

The Campaign: (12:15 p.m., 2:50 p.m. Saturday and Sunday), 5:25 p.m., 8 p.m., 10:20 p.m.

Hope Springs: (12 p.m., 2:25 p.m. Saturday and Sunday), 5 p.m., 7:35 p.m., 10 p.m.

Total Recall: (11:30 a.m., 2:15 p.m. Saturday and Sunday), 5:05 p.m., 7:45 p.m., 10:25 p.m.

Dark Knight Rises: (11:45 a.m., 3:20 p.m. Saturday and Sunday), 7 p.m., 10:30 p.m.

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