The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Bernie | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Bernie

The true story of a murder in a small Texan town.

Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jack Black, Shirley Maclaine, Matthew McConaughey

In the small East Texan community of Carthage, assistant funeral director Bernie Tiede (Black) is loved by all. Not so popular is millionairess Marjorie Nugent (Maclaine), an abrasive elderly woman who seems to go out of her way to antagonize the other members of the community. Seeing the good in everyone, Bernie attempts to befriend her after burying her late husband. Marjorie resists at first but eventually gives into his charms and the two become close friends. Bernie takes a full time job as her personal assistant, running her affairs and tending to her many demands. As she becomes more possessive and demanding, Bernie struggles to deal with her mood-swings, leading him to shoot her dead in an angry fit. Looking for a conviction after Bernie confesses to the killing, District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson (McConaughey) finds himself up against the people of Carthage who rally around their friend.
Of all the true crimes in recent American history, this isn't one of the more interesting in terms of the investigation as the perpetrator confessed as soon as he was caught. Rather than just another procedural, Linklater's true-crime movie is a character study. What makes Bernie such a fascinating character is just how much of a genuinely nice guy he seems to be. In documentary-style straight to camera pieces, the townsfolk of Carthage give us numerous examples of his generosity and selflessness. Even after killing his wealthy friend, he chooses to spend her money on improving the community, to such a degree that, after his capture, the economy of the town takes a massive hit.
A Texan native himself, Linklater captures the essence of small-town America perfectly. The actors all look exactly like the sort of people you see in Erroll Morris type documentaries, all big hair and tractor caps. In the title role, Black gives a career best performance and McConaughey continues his career reinvention, reteaming with the director who gave him his break in 1993's 'Dazed & Confused'. Maclaine's turn is all the more impressive given her role is almost devoid of dialogue yet she creates a fully nuanced character. As a film, there's not a whole lot to 'Bernie' but what there is you'll have a lot of fun with.