Bernie Richard Linklater

Bernie Richard Linklater
"It's like he cast a spell over the entire town." So says district attorney Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey) of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), the most popular resident of Carthage, Texas. The fact that Tiede is on trial for murdering and concealing the body of his friend and benefactor, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), seems to his neighbours no more than a blemish on his social record. Tiede was so admired, and Nugent so utterly detested, that, to Davidson's astonishment, Tiede's clear guilt doesn't turn the townsfolk against him. Some of them actually think he should be praised. That's the setup of Bernie, a well-made, fact-based comedy of dubious morality. Yes, it is a comedy ― writer / director Richard Linklater seems to find the idea that a man could get away with murder on good character alone more hilarious than horrifying. But it is disturbing and had Davidson not been such an apparently skilled and determined lawyer, Tiede could have easily gotten off. Is that funny? In an absurd sort of way, yes. I'm just not sure Linklater should have approached the material so lightly; he intercuts Black and MacLaine's dramatic re-enactments with staged interviews of Tiede's friends and neighbours, who offer broad opinions wavering between honesty and delusion. Anyone who would support the evil of a friend is guilty of something more than small-town loyalty. The most telling shot of the film comes during the end credits: the real Tiede and Black in conversation. Black looks transfixed ― did Tiede cast a spell over the filmmakers as well? DVD features explain the methodology of the film, particularly of Black's transformative, career-high performance. But the apparent moral center of the story ― the attempt of a lawyer to bring justice where it was not wanted ― is given only passing consideration. (Alliance)