Thursday, December 27, 2012

Richard Linklater's 'Bernie'

I've now managed to see Richard Linklater's indie film Bernie (2011-2012) three times thanks in part to holiday gatherings. It's sort of like a mordantly comical variation on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment (1866) blended with Bob Balaban's Bernard and Doris [Duke] (2006), but set "Behind the Pine Curtain" of East Texas.

Basically, horrible harridan Mrs. Nugent (I wouldn't be surprised if she was related in some way to rabid Tea Party nut Ted Nugent) becomes dubiously enmeshed with kindly conman Bernie Tiede, an assistant funeral director from Louisiana. Most of the people of Carthage, Texas, seem to have always detested Mrs. Nugent, while they take quite a shine to newcomer Bernie. As one woman puts it thinking back after his trial, Bernie had the rare ability to "make the whole world seem kind."

We know ahead of time that Bernie will end up shooting 81-year old Mrs. Nugent with her own armadillo rifle, despite her having already willed him her estate (which she'd in turn inherited from her deceased husband, a rich oilman). 

In Bernie, Shirley MacLaine (as Marge Nugent) and Matthew McConaughey (as Panola County, Texas, D.A. Danny Buck Davidson) seem to be enjoying their roles throughout -- one can even detect a few times where McConaughey seems about to crack up after delivering one of Danny Buck's absurd pronouncements.

Jack Black deserves high accolades for his outstanding performance in the lead role. He's got Bernie Tiede down pat -- accent, mannerisms and vibe. Plus, he can sing little gospel songs at funerals quite well.

In addition, the film is interspersed with the quips of numerous real-life observers from Carthage. Finally, Brady Coleman is right on the money as Bernie's defense lawyer, Scrappy Holmes. 

If you want yet another taste of Texas weirdness, you might want to check Bernie out.

Today's Rune: Harvest.          

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