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London Film Festival 2011: BERNIE

I came out of Bernie racking my brain. The film felt so familiar but I had no previous knowledge of the true story, the town or the characters involved in it. I finally realised the familiarity I felt must have been similar films. Even then I couldn’t pinpoint an individual film and all that came to mind was something approaching a cross between Fargo and an Errol Morris documentary.

This familiarity is also not a negative. It makes watching the film a real pleasure, the progression of the story is gleeful and the black humour is warm and spiked with some great lines and deliveries. Director Richard Linklater keeps all of the technicals simple not detracting from the story or more importantly, the performances. I think you’d probably have to go back to the last Linklater-Black collaboration to find a performance this good from actor/singer/entertainer Jack Black. He is perfect as Bernie, sweet, mannered, charming and given room to sing a tune or two. Shirley MacLaine (all fire and brimstone) and Matthew McConaughey, (Texan, plain and simple) give great support, again better than both have been for a long time.

If I have any real criticism is that the film does tail away a little in the last third and I’m unsure how much replay value the film will have but on first watch it’s a real hoot and a holler. Seek it out.

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