Bernie (2011)

(On Cable TV, August 2014) Truth is often stranger than fiction, so it’s no surprise to see Bernie work extra-hard at blurring the line between the two in telling us an unusual story of crime and punishment in small-town East Texas.  Blending interviews with real people with fictional re-creation of the events, Bernie is the story of a likable man who ends up shooting a disliked widow.  The public reaction in the community is such that in planning the trial, the District Attorney ends up requesting another venue in order to ensure that his client won’t be pre-emptively acquitted by the jury.  Of course, the fun of the story is in the details, and the way writer/director Richard Linklater ends up presenting this true story through a blend of testimonials and scripted scenes.  Jack Black has a good role as the titular Bernie, earning himself a spot outside the annoyance zone in which his last few roles have landed.  Bernie also features two smaller but showy roles for Shirley McClaine (as the hated widow) and Matthew McConaughey (as the ambitious District Attorney, and another link in the rebirth of his career)  While Bernie isn’t a laugh-a-minute comedy, it’s an often-affectionate look at a small Texan community and the weirdness of true life crime.

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