Movie Review Monday: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
This weekend saw the release of several new films, and we ventured out to watch Where’d You Go, Bernadette. It was directed by Richard Linklater and written by Linklater, Holly Gent, and Vincent Palmo, Jr. Based on the novel by Maria Semple, the story follows a wife and architect named Bernadette Fox who goes missing prior to a family trip to Antarctica. Cate Blanchett takes center stage as Bernadette Fox, and Billy Crudup stars alongside her as Bernadette’s husband, Elgin Branch. The film’s cast also includes Emma Nelson, Kristen Wiig, James Urbaniak, Judy Greer, Zoë Chao, and Laurence Fishburne.
The film opens briefly with Bernadette Fox sitting in a kayak in the middle of the ocean surrounded by icebergs. A voiceover is provided by Bernadette’s daughter, Bee, and it quickly transitions to five weeks prior. Bernadette Fox lives in a rundown mansion with her husband and daughter around Seattle. She has several conflicts with her neighbor, Audrey, and she avidly avoids contact with other people. She relies heavily on her virtual assistant and is quite close with her daughter, Bee. Bee plans on attending boarding school next year and asks her parents for a family trip to Antarctica before that happens. However, those plans go awry when different pressures escalate and Bernadette runs away from home.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette is an enjoyable drama with a few interesting twists. At its heart, it is a look at a creative who has lost her way. The character of Bernadette is perfectly quirky, and the dynamics of her little family provides for a heartwarming story. It hits on the hilarious moments just as well as the more emotional ones. Most of the dialogue is witty and incredibly clever, and I enjoyed every moment that Blanchett was on screen. It might underutilize such actors as Laurence Fishburne, but his conversation with Bernadette in the restaurant is one of the best moments of the film. Also, it has some interesting thoughts about what can happen to an intensely creative person whenever they stop creating.
Unsurprisingly, the performances make this movie worth a watch, and Cate Blanchett leads that charge. She plays the eccentric Bernadette perfectly and captures the many layers her character contains. She makes this aloof and faulted main character still lovable, and I’m not sure that anyone else could have aced Bernadette’s penchant for zany, prolonged speeches. Blanchett makes every one of her moments on the screen worthwhile, and some of the best moments are the ones she shares with Emma Nelson. Nelson brings a maturity to her role as Bernadette’s daughter, Bee, and she leaves Bee as one of the most influential characters in the film. The character of Bee grounds the film with an honest assessment of both of her parents, and Nelson nails every emotional moment. Billy Crudup has several great moments as the concerned Elgin, and Kristen Wiig plays their neighbor, Audrey, with ease. It’s no surprise that Wiig makes the audience cackle with her helicopter parenting, but she also provides a few heartwarming moments later as she shares her own shortcomings.
At the end of the day, I think it’s fair to say that Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a moving story with an enigmatic lead character. It is far from perfect with criticisms of its pacing and structure well founded. The actual disappearance of Bernadette does come much later than anticipated, which does make for odd pacing. The story beats do translate as jagged at times, but I have also heard that the source material has that same quality. Despite its shortcomings, I found the film to be redeemed by its messages and intriguing characters that it places on screen. While it won’t be for everyone, I personally would recommend a viewing of Where’d You Go, Bernadette for Cate Blanchett’s performance alone.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.