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Jack Black, usually prone to grandstanding clowning and louder-than-everyone-else turns, delivers one of his best performance in years as a murderous mortician in this superb, based-on-real-events black comedy.

Black is Bernie Tiede, a mild-mannered mortuary worker who sweeps into Carthage, Texas and becomes the town’s best friend. “He was a real people person – he just made you feel good about yourself,” one of the townsfolk says in Richard Linklater’s deftly assembled movie.

Bernie’s good nature comes unstuck when he befriends one of the fiercest widows in town, Shirley MacLaine’s Marjorie, the two becoming best buds before her scathing treatment of him proves too much and he sends her packing courtesy of a bullet in the back.

Black and Linklater worked together on the ace musical comedy School Of Rock, and here again they come up trumps. Indie legend Linklater employs a pseudo-doc approach, using spliced-in interviews with local townsfolk (real life and actors) that backgrounds Bernie and Marjorie’s relationship, and Linklater alumni Matthew McConaughey (the Texan duo first worked together on 1993’s Dazed And Confused) serves up yet another surprising role as a dedicated DA in his rapidly integrity-winning career.

Black shines brightest though, reigning in his usual OTT-isms to make Bernie, an oddball in so many respects, empathetic while still keeping him at arm’s reach. And fear not, he does still get to sing – only this time round it is gospel songs at a funeral rather than Tenacious D’s Fuck You Gently.

Good for: Black comedy and Black fans keen for a film that offers laughs of a different nature

Starring: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine | 12A | 104mins | Out Apr 27


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Bernie - film review: Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine star in this black comedy
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