Bernie (12A) ****

Jack Black as Bernie Tiede and Shirley MacLaine as Marjorie Nugent in Bernie
Jack Black as Bernie Tiede and Shirley MacLaine as Marjorie Nugent in Bernie
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The foibles of the human heart are stranger than truth or fiction in Richard Linklater’s darkly comic yarn based on the true story of a 30-something Texan funeral home worker who murdered his wealthy 80-something companion but still curried sympathy from friends and neighbours.

Jack Black is in scintillating form as mortician Bernie, who becomes an unlikely companion to widowed curmudgeon Marjorie (Shirley MacLaine), who has lots of money but few social graces.

To the astonishment of the locals, Bernie and Marjorie become inseparable. However, after Marjorie’s demands begin to grate on Bernie he murders the crone in a fit of anger and then uses her money to support his friends and neighbours in the community.

For nine months, no one misses Marjorie, then her stockbroker begins to ask difficult questions and Bernie has to construct a tower of lies to conceal his part in the old woman’s untimely demise.

It’s a warm and witty portrait of small-town life peppered with interviews from real-life residents reminiscing about Marjorie’s demise.

Their loyalties remain divided; ours are firmly behind Linklater’s quirky picture.