We like her for a short while, but Blanchett’s Bernadette is no people person.
Richard Linklater’s next entry, “Where’d You Go Bernadatte,” is a curious one. We’re curious about the behavior of the title character, and her choices in life, especially if she can’t seem to communicate with people as much as she does with her family. And the result is a lukewarm entry that works for awhile, until it cops out in the third act.
Based on Maria Semple’s novel, the movie tells the story of a once successful architect named Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett), who has lost control of herself. She hasn’t decided something in ages, and she’s not a people person. That becomes an unfortunate problem for her, when her daughter Bee (newcomer Emma Nelson) wants to go to Antarctica for her birthday. It’s a problem, considering all the people that will be on the boat they’ll sleep on.
Her husband Elgie (Billy Crudup) is developing a device that will allow you to send messages with your thoughts (I’ve always imagined that, I kid you not), while at the same time, he begins to worry about Bernadette’s well-being. She’s taking an excessive amount of pills in order for her to get through the trip, and she has unknowingly given her family’s credit info to the Russian mafia she thought was her Indian assistant.
The movie’s cast also includes Kristen Wiig as Bernadette’s neighbor, whose house gets flooded by mud brought upon by her blackberry bushes getting attacked by rain; Judy Greer plays a psychiatrist whom Elgie asks to try to help his wife; and Laurence Fishburne as Bernadette’s old college professor, who tells her to get back out there, and make something of herself.
That’s when Bernadette escapes, and disappears to Antartica. That’s when Elgie and Bee struggle to find her, while at a similar setting, they allow the mystery to reveal themselves. And that also goes for Bernadette, who discovers a new part of herself.
Richard Linklater has not only dedicated “Where’d You Go Bernadette” to his recently departed mother, but also based the Bernadette Fox character on her. “How?,” you ask. In a way, she has her own unique views and personality. It wouldn’t be because she’s crazy, which she isn’t, as I’ve understood in a Times Talks interview I attended.
Blanchett nails the role of Bernadette, as she’s able to morph into the character’s behavior without being so melodramatic. Crudup adds a sweet spot as her husband. And Nelson has proven herself to be a natural actress-honest and consistent.
But the movie ends up being cynical and stressful once we get to the so-called missing person mystery in the third act. I was left a bit confused on my overall opinions. I do acknowledge that it’s comical when we see Bernadette go through the motions by ordering a massive prescription of drugs, and it’s nice when we see the family develop their struggling relationship. But I felt there could have been more or less out of them.
This is no Linklater masterpiece, at the level of “Dazed and Confused” or “Boyhood.”