Finally got around to watching this on Netflix streaming. While watching the Richard Linklater film, I was frankly underwhelmed, but by the time the end credits rolled around the film’s charm had snuck up on me.
I am a huge fan of Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy, School of
Rock, and have enjoyed his other films. I remember the marketing
campaign for this film positioning this film as true life crime dramedy.
There are comedic aspects that help the film along, but it never really
went beyond some amusing scenes. Matthew McConaughey as the town
sherriff probably provided the closest thing to comedy, playing a
publicity-seeking narcissist who somehow is about the only person in the
film who keeps Bernie’s crime in perspective. Jack Black’s performance
is one-note, and made me wonder why Linklater and some other directors
(such as David O. Russell with Jennifer Lawrence) keep on going back to
the same actors even though they may or may not be right for that movie
But when the final credits rolled, and we get to see the real life
Bernie, Jack’s performance seemed appropriate for the film. The film is
not really about Bernie, his crime, his inner demons, or whether or not
he did it or why. The thesis of the film can be summed up in one of the
townsfolk’s on-camera interviews that are interspersed throughout the
film: “People in small towns want to believe the worst in people. But
they also want to believe in the best in people.” Once the final credits
rolled, and I was finally certain that the townspeople talking about
Bernie in the film were the real people, then the point of the film
became clear to me, and its faults didn’t matter as much. Perhaps the
film’s title is misleading, as it is not really about Bernie, but how
people who knew Bernie felt about him.
This won’t go down as one of Linklater’s best, but it’s definitely worth a viewing.
My netflix rating: 3 out of 5 stars
My imdb rating: 7 out of 10