Richard Linklater makes films that are as varied as they are piquantly challenging. With BERNIE, based on a true story, he considers a good and universally beloved man who does a bad thing to a spiteful and universally despised woman. When I spoke to him on April 20, 2012, the whole idea of justice and its relationship to the law was definitely one of the things I wanted to discuss with him, but I started with the insightful way he depicted life in a small southern town, as only someone who comes from one could. In a conversation that has the atmosphere of a chat on a front porch, he was soft-spoken with an easy laugh as talked about the sense of community in small towns gossip as a social necessity there, and realizing that this is his first cinematic murder. Maybe.
BERNIE, the amazing true story of the titular character, the most beloved man in the town of Carthage, Texas, who befriended the most despised, and the richest, person in that town, Marjorie Nugent, in a relationship that pitted good against evil with results that amazed, astonished, and became the fodder for small-town gossip from the first day they clapped eyes on each other right up until today. The film challenges notions of right and wrong, what is just and what is legal, particularly when it comes to the motives of the town ambitious District Attorney, Danny Buck Davidson, as well as both celebrating and exploding stereotypes of small-town life. The film stars Jack Black as Bernie, Shirley MacLaine as Marjorie, and Matthew McConaughey as Buck. Linklater directed from a script he co-wrote with Skip Hollandsworth, the journalist at Texas Monthly Magazine, whose stories about the case first caught Linklater‘s attention. His previous work covers a wide spectrum from an examination of the eponymous characters in SLACKERS, his breakthrough film, through what romance means in BEFORE SUNRISE, the mind-blowing WAKING LIFE that rotoscoped it’s way through the meaning of reality, A SCANNER DARKLY, which used the same technique to adapt Philip K. Dick’s story, the darker implications of the drive-thru with FAST FOOD NATION, and a stunning recreation of Orson Welles’ early career in ME & ORSON WELLES, which netted Christian McKay, in the role of Welles, the best supporting actor nod from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. Linklater is also the Artistic Director of the Austin Film Society, which he founded in 1985.