Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Shirley MacLaine
Frankly, we didn’t think that Jack Black had it in him. Toning down his usual loudmouth, rampantly over-exaggerated shtick, Black blesses his School of Rock director Richard Linklater with a properly subtle performance in the sadly overlooked Bernie, a fascinating black comedy seeped in documentary influences.
A proud Texan, Linklater is the perfect filmmaker to capture the authentic Longhorn sensibility needed to tell the real-life story of jovial mortician Bernie Tiede (Black), a Carthage, TX, resident loved throughout the community for his warm heart and willingness to help the elderly. When one particular old woman’s (Shirley MacLaine) bitchy ways push Bernie over the edge, he shoots her dead and hides her body in a garage freezer. The catch is, though, that the people of Carthage root for Bernie’s freedom once the local district attorney (Matthew McConaughey) pushes for the likeable killer to enter prison.
In addition to strong acting from both Black and McConaughey, Bernie constantly absorbs attention thanks to Linklater’s inspired decision to mix man-on-the-street interviews with actual Carthage citizens into the story. Their lively Texas slang and rural ideologies pepper Bernie with just the right amount of home-cooked goodness.