Bernie received a summer 2012 release in the States but has only just found its way over to these shores which isn’t usually an encouraging sign. It’s not as bad as first feared. The comedy begins by creating a curious sense of local community through its mockumentary style, doing well to seamlessly mix ‘vox pops’ with the actual (true) story of Bernie (Jack Black), a mortician adored in small town Texas with a charming duty to his neighbourhood.
The film is strongest in its establishment of a sense of place, but the screenplay does run out of steam as the multitude of faux-vox pops seem increasingly superfluous. Jack Black is precise and charismatic as the effeminate Bernie yet the ‘romantic’ relationship he shares with a cruel, elderly spinster isn’t made to make much sense despite it all apparently being a true story. It’s a pity Matthew McConaughey doesn’t receive more screentime as the town’s District Attorney and the only man who doesn’t rush to Bernie’s defence when things take a dark turn. It’s an interesting comedy with a sly way with words (“there was always talk of Bernie being a little light in the loafers”). Director and co-writer Richar Linklater never quite manages to explain what the point of telling the story really is so it doesn’t amount to a great deal and yet it’s a curious little thing which improves with reflection.
Review by David Rank
Bernie is out on 26th April in the UK. Running time 104 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).
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