Ed Travis Reviews BERNIE at SXSW on

March 18, 2012


Writer/Director Richard Linklater brings us this charming film about small towns, gossip, murder, Texas, and (almost) boundless kindness. Bernie is played by Jack Black in a lovable performance. He is a town mortician and church musician who is universally loved by everyone he meets. Much of the narrative film plays out like a documentary as actors play townsfolk who are talking about Bernie in interview-style footage. Because of his core-level kindness, Bernie befriends wealthy grouch Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Over time, Bernie wins over Marjorie and they forge an odd relationship. But Marjorie takes advantage of Bernie’s kindness repeatedly until one day, everything comes to a head. What follows is a funny and fascinating study of small town justice. Nobody liked Marjorie, and EVERYONE liked Bernie, so what is a lawman (in this case played brilliantly by Matthew Maconaughey) to do?

Bernie was charming, packed with genuine laughs, and structured in an interesting documentary style. I really enjoyed myself while watching it and also found myself thinking about the ethical dilemmas that the film brings up. But I don’t want to say anything more than that because I recommend seeing this upon release, for sure.