Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Best Films of 2012: #6

I'm always excited to see Richard Linklater's name attached to a new film. I know I'll never see the same thing twice from this protean director, who's had his share of dogs (such as the experimental film adaptation of the play "Tape") but has also made my top-ten list three times: with 2001's "Waking Life," 2004's "Before Sunset," and this year's "Bernie," the true-life story of Bernie Tiede, a beloved assistant funeral director in Carthage, Texas.

Jack Black plays Bernie, who takes up with a wealthy but widely despised widow (played by Shirley Maclaine in an appealingly understated, almost offhand way). Though it's hard to remember now, there was a time (about a dozen years ago) when Black's style of smart physical comedy (in such films as "Jesus' Son" and the unfairly trashed "Saving Silverman") seemed fresh and exciting. Black rekindles those memories with his richest and best performance to date.

Feeling imprisoned by Maclaine's ever-increasing demands on his time, Black shoots her, and Matthew McConaughey (about him I'll say more higher up on this list) is terrific as the attention-whore D.A. with the temerity to prosecute him. What makes this hybrid movie so hilarious are the interviews Linklater intersperses with the people of Carthage themselves. Their down-home bon mots left me laughing out loud, hard enough to remember more than eight months later.

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