I'm going to guess that your childhood in Fort Riley, Kansas prepared you to cast this movie. And it's a good thing, too. Because the success of Richard Linklater's dramatization of the Bernie Tiede murder case rests squarely upon the difficult narrative conceit that we're watching a magazine article come to life. The story isn't told from Bernie's point-of-view, or even in the omniscient present-tense, but is rather retold by a Greek chorus of gossipy East Texas townspeople who, over the course of several years, observed from afar the strange relationship between Tiede (Jack Black) and his benefactor (and eventual victim) played by a lemon-faced Shirley MacLaine.
Whether this was going to work or not was completely up to you.
And, boy, does it work.
Tina, I don't know where you rounded up this Avengers-like super-team of expressive, winsome, drawling southerners, but they carry the momentum of the film in such an easy way that one forgets how tenuous the whole structure is. With professional actors, it could have been utterly boring. But you managed to find real people. Earthy, funny people. And because the responsibility of generating laughs is taken away from Black, he's able to settle into a performance that is so weirdly sweet and restrained (even as he breaks into show-tunes) that it might be his best ever.
He owes you. And so does Linklater. And so does co-star Matthew McConaughey, because the cameo by his mother might just make her a star.
I also wanted to say, if you find yourself, in the near future, casting a small role for a masculine, square-jawed, acerbic Jon Hamm-type with a Canadian accent, please be in touch.
Y'All Take Care Now,