FILM: Bernie (12A)

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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 thirty-something Texan funeral home worker who murderer his wealthy eighty-something companion but still curried sympathy from friends and neighbours.

Jack Black is in scintillating form as mortician Bernie Tiede, whose easygoing manner curries favour with the residents of Carthage, Texas.

He becomes an unlikely companion to widowed curmudgeon Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), who has lots of money but few social graces.

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

For nine months, no one misses Marjorie Nugent, 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.

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

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

Released: April 26 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas), 104 mins