Bernie owes much to Jack Black’s impressive performance, arguably his best to date. It’s a lovable, highly-nuanced, clever and believable portrayal of a loving, caring, God-like assistant funeral director, who is also a true hero in his native town of Carthage, TX. However, as the movie progresses, the character goes through a rough transition – there is a test of nerves, as Bernie becomes involved in a friendly relationship with an older, rich woman named Marjorie, known for her heartless behavior. After a few luxurious trips outside the USA, many wonderful days doing God knows what, and lots of money spent in the process, Marjorie starts treating Bernie like her property, a clown of sorts who should always be there by her side. Exhausted and angered, Bernie does what nobody in the world would expect -he shoots the lady dead in a sudden mental rage. For quite some time he tries to persuade the secluded community that she’s still alive, but ultimately the truth comes out and the man is arrested.
The film changes its setting, from many peaceful countryside landscapes to the claustrophobic court room scenes. Even though everybody in town believes that Bernie should be freed immediately, there is one person who would do almost anything in order to sent him to jail. Namely, Danny Buck (badass Matthew McConaughey), a local district attorney, who is as hateful as he’s perhaps lawful. He tries to convince the slow-witted jury that Bernie, though nice and amazingly calm, needs to do time for the murder he committed.
Apart from Black’s performance, the movie’s greatest strength are the many laughable interviews with the local townsfolk. Their strong, humorous, and emphatic opinions prove to exemplify the South as we now know it. Bernie is not only an unexpectedly entertaining crime-comedy flick, it’s also a comically dark mockumentary, where real-life drama merges with legal-thriller-like sequences, supplemented by many wholehearted eccentricities, which only enhance the overall effect. And in the end, it’s highly doubtful that anyone will be pleased with the rough verdict, so enormously pleasant is Jack Black’s fanciful aura.