Bernie (2011) Directed by Richard Linklater. With Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey.
Based on a true story, Richard Linklater’s Bernie is an oddly comical look at a series of dark events that occurred in a small town Texan community. In film reviewing circles, words like ‘offbeat’ are bandied around willy-nilly, but if ever a film warranted overuse of that particular word, then this must be high in pecking order.
As often is the case, there’s a lot of dark humour to be mined from seemingly tragic circumstances and Linklater immediately establishes that tone by fronting Jack Black in the title role. Black oozes a certain creepiness that would give any overly indulgent TV evangelist a run for thier money, and although Bernie’s intentions and actions seem genuine, there remains an underlying uncertainty as to his true motives. It’s a clever performance from Black, which makes full use of that familiar singing ability we’ve previously heard in School of Rock and Tenacious D – only this time he’s singing for Jesus, not Satan.
Adding satisfying scowl in an increasingly scabrous performance is Shirley MacClaine whose character is seemingly sent to test Bernie’s level of patience and Christian do-goodery. While never what you would call a laugh out loud comedy, Bernie is one of those films that has you shaking your head with amusement while admiring the dark comedy woven in. Interspersed use of talking head clips with locals recounting their relationships and opinions on Bernie lend the film a documentary style at times and when the end comes, you might feel a little off balance as to what kind of reaction you were supposed to have. 3.5/5