Buried), Keanu Reeves (Henry's Crime), Will Ferrell (Everything Must Go), and now Jack Black, who tries his hand at dark dramedy in Richard Linklater's Bernie.
Based on a real-life incident that took place several years ago, Bernie lays its scene in small-town Texas, where the titular mortician charms everyone around with his kindness, positivity, and sincerity. Through interviews with real people that are interspersed through out the film, we learn that the whole town is pretty much smitten over the guy, who has a curious preference for older women. The apple of his eye turns out to be Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a bitter, controlling senior without a single friend in the area. Despite his best efforts to charm her into happiness, Marjorie's negativity finally weighs him down, coaxing Bernie into a drastic decision that will change his life forever.
The story is enticing, and, as this is a Richard Linklater movie, the experimental bits liven the proceedings considerably. They also tend to muddy them, however, flashing in and out through a zillion talking heads instead of using that time to further develop our twisted hero, breaking the third wall about every two minutes. Black clearly relishes his chance to finally sink his teeth into a role, but that doesn't mean that he's ready for it. His Bernie is an interesting creation, but the fear that he might devolve into his normative song-singing, expletive-flinging self at any moment permeates the whole film, preventing his character from ever truly convincing. I suppose there's a reason that some of these movies get lost at the art house.