Texan filmmaker Richard Linklater offers a wry, blackly comic take on his home state with this tongue-in-cheek, often camp spin on a real-life murder case that took place in the late 1990s. Jack Black is cast against type as Bernie, a gentle, possibly gay and much-loved mortician. A pillar of the community, Bernie makes friends with a much-loathed old woman, Marjorie (Shirley MacLaine), but later shoots her dead after she becomes abusive. Linklater wraps the whole thing up as a warm-glowing, smalltown fairytale, with faux-doc, talking-head inserts that give the whole thing a touch of Christopher Guest (‘A Mighty Wind’).
If the crime element feels like little more than a red herring, it’s the characters that give the film its appeal. It’s hard to take Black entirely seriously – especially when the film feels like one big wink – but he offers a masterclass in delivering a veneer of harmless, parochial do-gooding and bonhomie with just a hint of something sinister behind the gentle grins.