Bernie

Thu, Feb 21, 2013, 00:00

Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey. Cineworld, 8.50pm ****

Such are the vagaries of film distribution that we get to see this 2011 production by Richard Linklater a few weeks after his latest film, Before Midnight, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

A black comedy disguised as a mock documentary, the film is almost as peculiar as the same director’s Waking Life. Offering a career-best performance, Jack Black stars as a popular mortician in the small town of Carthage, Texas who befriends a fearsome widow played by Shirley MacLaine. The grand dame doesn’t say much, but her icy gaze and permanent reptilian frown suggest concealed depths of simmering malignity.

It would be an overstatement to say that Black is a revelation. He’s delivered grown-up performances in the past. But Linklater has found something quite fresh (and fetid for that matter) to do with his child-man. The townspeople are devoted to the odd fellow and, when something truly ghastly happens, that devotion doesn’t much falter.

Bernie is based on a true story and some of the talking heads are genuine citizens of Carthage. Mixing these honest folk with convincing fakes, Linklater constructs a hybrid that has few models in recent cinema.

Bernie is a puzzle picture but, funny throughout, it never seems in the least forbidding.

Sign In

Forgot Password?

Sign Up

The name that will appear beside your comments.

Have an account? Sign In

Forgot Password?

Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In or Sign Up

Thank you

You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.

Hello, .

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

Thank you for registering. Please check your email to verify your account.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.