In mockumentary Bernie, director Richard Linklater spotlights the quirky Texan hamlet of Carthage, using a bevy of real-life townspeople as narrators. The divine Shirley Maclaine plays Marjorie, a wealthy widow who is pretty much evil incarnate. Jack Black (see the Q&A with him here) plays the titular Bernie Tiede, a sweet assistant mortician who is the town jewel. The two forge a twisted friendship, allowing the seasoned actors to shine opposite one another.
Black, in an uncharacteristically serious role, takes Bernie s falsetto gospel solos, flair for musical theater and uneasy demeanor head-on, levying chuckles along the way — or until things take a morbid turn when his character morphs into a cold-blooded killer. Matthew McConaughey (whose Texan mother makes a cameo) plays the local district attorney, tasked with getting to the bottom of the murder case. The candor of McConaughey, his mother and the rest of the townsfolk is a pleasure to watch. But does the hilarity only lie in their forthcomingness? Are we supposed to laugh at Bernie because he's closeted or because he's Jack Black? It's obvious Bernie's a dark comedy, but it's hard to know when it's OK to laugh.