Rated 5.0

Jack Black delivers an exceptionally fine performance as the pivotal figure in this film’s offbeat gallery of small-town characters. As such, Black’s Bernie Tiede is the focal point in what is also a droll, quirky account of a very peculiar real-life incident. But Bernie is no one-man show. Director Richard Linklater presents the story in friskily varied form—part comic documentary, part courtroom drama, part true-crime farce. The cast includes Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey in key roles, but part of the film’s special charm comes from the casting of assorted local folk as the townspeople who comment on various aspects of Bernie’s time as a remarkably kind and public-spirited mortician. The crucial twist in all this is that Bernie ends up being charged with murder. The victim is Marjorie Nugent (MacLaine), a wealthy widow and a thoroughly disagreeable person to whom Bernie becomes a constant companion and helpmate. And yet there is no conventional murder mystery here—Bernie freely confesses once the body is discovered in a freezer in the Nugent garage. Pageant Theatre. Rated PG-13.