Where'd You Go Bernadette
Starring Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Emma Nelson, Kristen Wiig, Laurence Fishburne
Known for his inventive indie films, Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”) takes aim at the mainstream, with his adaptation of the best-selling book Where’d You Go, Bernadette. The Oscar-nominated director from Austin cast Cate Blanchett in the lead role, a choice that fans of the book had long predicted and hoped for. It’s a return to greatness for her after a long line of disposable mainstream roles. The two-time Oscar-winning actress has found her niche playing complicated female roles that are often maniacal, self-focused and thoroughly captivating. Bernadette Fox joins Katherine Hepburn and Jasmine Francis as a trifecta of Blanchett’s best work. Unlike “Blue Jasmine,” “Where’d You Go Bernadette” is far more than just a character study, it’s an adventuresome conversational piece about re-self-discovery. Linklater’s creative adaptive spin on the book reminds us what a great conversationalist and expert on the study of humanity he is.
Once the exciting future of the architectural world, Bernadette Fox (Blanchett) is now the most hated mom on her street. She has grown distant from her husband, Microsoft superstar Elgie (Crudup). He spends his days giving TED talks and creating the technology of the future, while Bernadette works on their newly acquired home, a dilapidated former Catholic convent. “I’m not good when exposed to people,” she murmurs, half-joking, half not. Bernadette keeps to herself and only has one friend, her daughter Bee (Nelson). When Bee suggests a trip to Antarctica as a reward for good grades, Bernadette finds herself unable to say no. She begins preparing for the upcoming trip, despite her hatred of travel, hatred of people, and seasickness. The more she thinks about it, the more eccentric her behavior becomes comes until Elgie stages an intervention, which results in Bernadette’s disappearance.
Unlike “Blue Jasmine,” “Where’d You Go Bernadette” is far more than just a character study, it’s an adventuresome conversational piece about re-self-discovery.
“People like you must create or become a menace to society.” It’s the menacing first half of the film that’s so entertaining, in a “Big Little Lies” sort of way. Maria Semple’s writing is innovative in the way she creates non-archetypal characters that the audience isn’t sure what to make of, and equally how they evolve throughout the story. In her 2011 film “Bandits,” Blanchett hilariously sang her heart out to Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” behind the wheel of a Mercedes. Fans will be delighted with a scene here where she and Nelson belt out Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” in a vintage Jaguar. One of Blanchett’s great talents is the seemingly easy way she shifts between comedy and drama. Bernadette is a character that requires both in nearly every scene and the Australian actress doesn’t miss a beat.
Like with most great actors, they raise the bar inspiring the supporting actors around them. Crudup who worked with Blanchett on the 2001 film “Charlotte Gray” gives one of his best performances as the supportive though despondent husband who is consumed with work. Likewise, Wiig (“Bridesmaids”) has never been better, especially in a centerpiece scene where she goes head to head with Blanchett. “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” has a lot to unpack emotionally and a lot to say about pursuing your passion no matter what stage of life you’re on. Linklater’s adaptation of Semple’s creative work offers something for everyone to reflect on.
Creative, hilarious and heartfelt, ‘Bernadette’ is a self-discovery film for the ages with Blanchett and Linklater delivering some of their best work.