BERNIE (Alliance, 2011) D: Richard Linklater, w/ Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNNN Rating: NNN
Bernie's true crime story throws light on a part of the human condition I've never seen portrayed anywhere else.
In the mid-90s, mortician's assistant Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is the most popular man in a small East Texas town, despite being a little odd. He develops a friendship with Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a rich, mean-spirited widow. The crime that follows isn't particularly surprising, but the town's reaction is.
Director Richard Linklater calls the film a comedy, and this accounts for at least some of Black's performance, though the actor turns in some credible emotion later in the movie. But Linklater also casts numerous non-actor locals from the town where the story happened, and interviews them extensively. They have such a forthright air that even a wry grin seems like the wrong response to them.
The extras clarify the movie's relationship to the real case and give the locals time to make their various presences felt, providing the film with a weight it would otherwise lack.
EXTRAS Jack Black doc, true-story-to-movie doc, townspeople doc. English audio. English, Spanish subtitles.