Thursday, December 27, 2012


2011, US, directed by Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater takes a bizarre true crime tale and infuses it with much of the easygoing, conversational spirit of his earlier features, most obviously Slacker and Dazed and Confused, to genuinely unsettling effect, not least by shooting his film in many of the actual locations and employing some of the townsfolk who knew the principals. While their participation is clearly shaped by the filmmaker, there's no getting around the fact that, fifteen years on, the locals remain far more kindly disposed toward Bernie, a convicted murderer, than his elderly victim. That's part of the point, though: Linklater wants the viewer to feel complicit with these people, who have their own unusual take on the morality of the situation. The film does tend to stack the deck somewhat to achieve this effect, soft-peddling what might seem the more obvious ways for Bernie to deal with his increasingly unpleasant situation, though it does appear as though the real-life events are well beyond what any writer of fiction might dare to get away with. Linklater directed one of Jack Black's most enjoyable prior screen appearances, in The School of Rock, and clearly saw greater potential in the actor: he has Black dial his usual act right back while finding the occasional outlet for his more exuberant tendencies and it's an entirely convincing performance, with Black carefully sketching in Bernie's moral agonies without denying his self-regard.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States