Bernie, starring Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Shirley Maclaine

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Finally got around to watching this on Netflix streaming. While watching the Richard Linklater film, I was frankly underwhelmed, but by the time the end credits rolled around the film’s charm had snuck up on me.

I am a huge fan of Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy, School of Rock, and have enjoyed his other films. I remember the marketing campaign for this film positioning this film as true life crime dramedy. There are comedic aspects that help the film along, but it never really went beyond some amusing scenes. Matthew McConaughey as the town sherriff probably provided the closest thing to comedy, playing a publicity-seeking narcissist who somehow is about the only person in the film who keeps Bernie’s crime in perspective. Jack Black’s performance is one-note, and made me wonder why Linklater and some other directors (such as David O. Russell with Jennifer Lawrence) keep on going back to the same actors even though they may or may not be right for that movie or part.

But when the final credits rolled, and we get to see the real life Bernie, Jack’s performance seemed appropriate for the film. The film is not really about Bernie, his crime, his inner demons, or whether or not he did it or why. The thesis of the film can be summed up in one of the townsfolk’s on-camera interviews that are interspersed throughout the film: “People in small towns want to believe the worst in people. But they also want to believe in the best in people.” Once the final credits rolled, and I was finally certain that the townspeople talking about Bernie in the film were the real people, then the point of the film became clear to me, and its faults didn’t matter as much. Perhaps the film’s title is misleading, as it is not really about Bernie, but how people who knew Bernie felt about him.

This won’t go down as one of Linklater’s best, but it’s definitely worth a viewing.

My netflix rating: 3 out of 5 stars

My imdb rating: 7 out of 10

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