Directed by Richard Linklater
With adequate casting, snappy dialogue, and very unique presentation, Bernie is one of the best films Richard Linklater has made for some time.
What instantly struck me about this movie was the strange format is was told in. Based on a true story (a term which, itself, has a very loose definition), this movie is presented as part mockumentary, and part traditional drama. The documentary style, which I usually find off-putting, was actually put to good use here. I was unsure as to how well this style might work, but by the end, I could see that it was definitely the right approach. The use of interviews with outside characters to give insight on the story and, most importantly, Bernie himself, proved an excellent way of showcasing the impact the character had on his surroundings. Instead of dragging the story out with expositional interactions, we are able to hear what the characters are thinking, and let the film proceed. Very clever, indeed.
Now, before I go any further, let it first be known that I am not particularly a fan of Jack Black. That being said, I feel he was the perfect choice for the part. His demeanor, personality, and presence were all very well-suited to the role. Not a "great" performance, per se, but definitely nothing to scoff at. Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey both provide adequate support, with MacLaine playing a largely silent role and McConaughey supplying a good deal of comedy. This is no actor's showcase, but as performances go, none are out of place.
Taking a very dark subject and turning it into comedy is a risky maneuver, especially considering the fact that this is a film based on real people, many of which are still alive. Making light of heavy topics is rarely something I find myself too enthralled by, but the creativity of its presentation, entertaining script, and good performances make it hard for me to begrudge the film. This is only a minor complaint, one that could be easily categorized as a personal bias without incentive.
Richard Linklater - one of my favorite working directors - has a knack for writing witty dialogue, and this film is no exception. This is easily his best film since 2004's Before Sunset -- another showcase of his impeccable writing skills. Thought you may find some of the darker elements slightly distressing, this is still a fairly light, entertaining movie, presented in a creative manner. My main question after it was all finished, "was this story what influenced Weekend At Bernie's"? Food for thought.