Bernie is being touted as a breakthrough role for Jack Black; his arrival as a serious actor (the equivalent of Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk, although the comparison flatters Sandler).
It is a comedy, of sorts, although it’s about as dark as it gets, telling the true story behind the murder of a rich widow by her younger funeral director companion (Black). It is shot in the style of a docudrama, with talking-head locals gossiping about the much-loved Bernie and his despised victim.
Black keeps a lid on his more boisterous tendencies, playing it largely straight as the gentle, ever-so-slightly creepy Bernie Tiede.
Matthew McConaughey, though, provides the stand-out performance as an ambitious red-neck district attorney determined to nail Tiede by hook or by crook. It’s a slow burner but one that’s worth the wait.
First published in City A.M.