by Vadim Rizov
A minor Richard Linklater
film is better than no Linklater at all. Bernie
reteams Austin, Texas' finest with Jack Black
eight years after their major-studio breakthrough School of Rock
. Linklater's talent for normalizing potentially over-the-top material is very well-suited for mainstream fare; the key shot of School of Rock
comes when Black yields to the kids in his classâall bugging him to perform for themâand launches into impassioned song. A hack would've cut constantly between Black's mugging and the students' goggle-eyed reactions, but Linklater reduces this scene to one simple shot. Black sings as the camera slowly tracks back down the classroom aisle, recording his performance without cueing the audience how to respond.
was a hit, but Linklater's 2006 Hollywood follow-up, a remake
of The Bad News Bears
, was a bust. Since then, financing for the kind of modest films the director specializes in has dried up, and Linklater's talked with wistful frustration in interviews about leaving Texas for a second European career. His first narrative feature since 2008's Me and Orson Welles
reconstructs the true story of Bernie Tiede (played here by Black), a Carthage, Texas (population: 6,700) funeral home employee with a reputation for exceptional kindness. One widow who benefited from his attention was Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine
), who'd alienated everyone in Carthage, TX with rudeness and stinginess. After her husband died, Bernie gave her his coat at the funeral and showed up a few days later to check how she was doing. He became her nearly-live-in companion, until her demands became too much and he killed her.
Continued reading FILM OF THE WEEK: Bernie...