Watched May 28, 2012
Hunter Duesing’s review:
A scrumptious slice of Texas true-crime weirdness. Jack Black gives possibly the best performance of his career as Bernie Tiede, a bizarrely generous (assistant) funeral director, who has a way with the local blue-hairs in Carthage, Texas. He gets into a truly strange relationship with a wealthy old widow (Shirley MacLaine), who is feared for her prickly disposition. When Bernie seemingly murders her in cold blood, it shocks the town, but the way they react is where things get really interesting.
But the star of the film isn’t its charmingly fey criminal or the deed that made him infamous, but rather the rich Texas culture surrounding it. Richard Linklater brings his keen eye for local flavor that made Slacker the distillation of Austin hipster culture, and Dazed and Confused a memorable teenage time-capsule. Weaving in “interviews” with the locals, along with his dramatic reenactment, Linklater serves the film with a unique personality, while also keeping true to the journalistic roots of the tale, which brought to the world through an article in Texas Monthly by Skip Hollandsworth (who also wrote the script with Linklater). An oddball yarn like this seems like something one would encounter in one of David Lynch’s darn-good-coffee-and-pie offerings, but sometimes real crimes are crazy enough to make Laura Palmer seem run-of-the-mill.