That truth is stranger than fiction; a truism that never fails to amaze. You couldn’t have sold Bernie, certainly not a story told in earnest, as a piece of fiction. But the world is weird all on its own and as a piece of reality, told with sensitivity and honesty, it works surprisingly well.

Black (The Holiday) and MacLaine (In Her Shoes) are perfect together. They make these outrageously odd people completely real for good and ill. You cannot help but feel for them, even as each of their choices betray them.

There are also a host of folks playing the residents of Carthage, including McConaughey’s mom, who is a riot. Whether they are mostly actors or substantially real townsfolk, I had no idea and didn’t want to know. They came across as completely honest. If you want to know more about the process and casting you can read more here.

McConaughey (True Detective) was the only sour note for me in the film. Amidst the bald reality feel of so many of the actors and townsfolk, he comes across fake and sour. It is a shame as, each time he appears, the sense of the film was shattered for me. Fortunately, they are mostly brief moments, but I would have preferred a different actor in the role.

Linklater’s (Before Sunrise, Boyhood) script and direction is an odd cross between dark comedy and documentary; imagine Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap) taking on true crime. In fact the real story continues with some surprising twists that you can read about:

Somehow, this tale manages to stay light and comic, if darkly at times, despite its resolution. I think that is a tribute to Bernie and his entire outlook of the world as well as Linklater’s handling of the film. Bernie is uncrushable. What you think of him or his actions,  you’ll have decide for yourself. But the film is worth your time for the directing, acting, and the story itself.

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