Wow! It is hard to understand at times what people do, say and believe. Bernie is a true story. And although it is told from a black comedy angle, the events and reactions are real. Director Richard Linklater has even interviewed the real citizens of Carthage (east Texas town this takes place in) and woven it into the narrative or should I say dramatization. Gossip, speculations and craziness ensues.
Adapted from a 1998 article in Texas Monthly, titled “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas.” written by Skip Hollandsworth (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Linklater), this tale reads like pure fiction. A fiction full of all sorts of drama, deception and murder. I did not know too much going in except for what I just stated and (as you know by now) I will not spoil it for you–discovering what happens is part of the experience while watching this film.
The cast is small and spot on. I like Jack Black. Yes, I know he can be over the top at times but I love it when he gets it right. And he gets Bernie right. Black’s charisma and exuberance are the perfect fit for this man and yet, it never feels like a caricature. It feels natural and easy. Matthew McConaughey continues his supporting role awesomeness. He is a pure treat in this film–his expressions alone are worth it. And last, but not least, the incomparable Shirley MacLaine. She is amazing. No one else could have portrayed this character so perfectly.
Linklater purposefully creates a small, intimate movie and in turn, it makes you feel like you’re part of this community. It is incredible how powerful perception can be and how strong personal convictions can taint your reality. A very interesting, thought-provoking tale that is well structured and told. Sometimes, I still can’t believe it’s not made up.