"Bernie" is a nice surprise by Richard Linklater and Jack Black - the
same team that brought you 2003's comedy hit "The School of Rock"; now
they have reunited for a different type of comedy - a dark one.
Black acts differently in this movie - more restraint, more focused, and at times more intense than in any other film he's done before. His humor here is low-key and not physical a feat done with his absorbing performance. Here is a guy who is loved by everyone - who must be loved by everyone, and who can never say no. It is both an interesting and challenging role for him but he pulls it off in a great way - perhaps paving the way to more challenging and dramatic roles in the future. Compared to other comedy film actors who tried more serious turns, he's not yet as terrific as say, Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show" or Adam Sandler in "Punch-Drunk Love" - but he's on the right track.
Shirley MacLaine is also very different here - she has a sweet, somewhat cheeky personality in many of her previous films of late, but for this movie there's a cold, demeaning aura around her, and her steely eyes sell it. Matthew McConaughey as the ruthless district attorney has certainly improved in his acting range - just check out the courtroom scenes.
I really appreciate the small-town setting of the film. The film is told by ''interviews'' with the friendly small-town folk, giving a quirky and homely feel to the film, while at the same time Linklater smoothly meshes narrative flashbacks into it - which brings me to the editing. The film moves at a strong clip and never feels rushed nor draggy. The above-average screenplay has balances just the right amount of screen- time to establish the story and characters, notably Bernie. Just when you think the film is about to end - there's always another interesting thing happening that keeps the audience glued.
Black and Linklater make a good, promising actor-director team. Perhaps Linklater will be the key to unlock Black's potential in acting. Of course, this is still a ''little'' movie - a low budget, and scarcely any promotion at all... so hopefully word of mouth spreads just how very good this dark comedy is.
P.S. I was not aware that the film is based on a true story. That made the film even more dark and quirky than it was supposed to be.
Overall rating: 77%
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