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Review: BERNIE

Richard Linklater | 2011

Well enough done, but the weird mixture of tones in the staged “interview” segments rubbed me very much the wrong way. There are real Texans doing real interviews mixed in with real Texans reading fake lines mixed with Matthew McConaughey doing his “Danny Buck” shtick. The lack of tonal consistency demonstrates–better than any argument I might make–the needlessness of the insipid “there are interviews!” approach itself.

It’s a mess both rhetorically and formally, but in gross effect it achieves a passingly sensitive treatment of the issue of social interplay among socially unequal players. By the time the dirty deed is done, Bernie’s humanity is adequately established. Perhaps the “evil” (to quote an “interviewee”) of Maclaine’s character might be more clearly demonstrated–we get about five minutes of shitty behavior, and otherwise she’s a sweet, giving lady. Maybe it could be argued that a cartoonish evil would lessen the complexity of Bernie’s break with strict morality, but I argue the opposite: he’s too candy-coated, and she’s not shit-coated enough for me to believe a sweet man might snap.

In the end, it just barely manges to do what it needs to do. That ought not be enough to give it even a tepid thumbs up, but in the context of today’s cinematic landscape this is probably / almost / sort of / as good as it gets.