Where’d You Go, Bernadette was excellent, and I urge folks who get caught in their feels to see it before it leaves theaters. I did not read the book of the same name by Maria Semple, although I bumped it up to what I want to read next. What I can tell you is that this film was immensely cared for through it’s excellent performances, directing, and overall design.
I feel like this is definitely something Richard Linklater poured his soul into. I can tell he truly wanted to be respectful to the book while putting his own stamp on it as an artist. From my small understanding of the book’s original course, the film takes a slightly different one, that in my opinion works better for a screenplay. Linklater omits a rather huge plot point in the middle, but one that definitely doesn’t ruin the overall purpose of the story. It’s not your run of the mill feel-good family fun flick. He takes risks with the grim realities of mental health and heavy family dynamics in the most Linklater way possible.
Bernadette Fox used to be the most eccentric architect back in her prime, but suddenly vanished from the scene. Two decades later, she finds herself a homebody who battles social anxiety everywhere she goes in a city she despises. When faced with an overwhelming reality, she runs away, and it’s up to her teenage daughter Bee and husband Elgie to find her.
The script works for the film, but the plot is tricky to pin-point whose story it technically is. It tackles one’s determination to ignore their issues and the struggle of self worth in a very telling way, but forgets about other tiny important factors. From knowing what I know about the book, Bee is supposed to be telling the story of her mom and what happened to her. In the film we do find this out, but initially through Bernadette and then again later when Bee shares. Nothing about the story is a mystery to the viewer as much as it is to Bee. It becomes solely Bernadette’s film when Bee stops narrating, which comes back later and is slightly jarring. It feels like there were a few different things they couldn’t decide on in order to flesh out. Nonetheless, it still worked for me.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Bernadette Fox is my new favorite Cate Blanchett role, followed by her Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. She is fierce and honest. The dark parts of Bernadette accentuate the brighter parts that balance her out perfectly. I personally related with Bernadette so much that this felt like a clever character study at times. Emma Nelson plays Bernadette’s daughter Bee. Her performance is genuine, keeping the film light. Billy Crudup playing Bernadette’s husband Elgie was a treat that I didn’t know I was in for. He brings out the cold hard truth to Bernadette’s world that she needs, while also being flawed in a very human way. Kristen Wiig was incredible as the snooty neighbor Audrey. Other great performances include Zoe Chao, Laurence Fishbourne, and Judy Greer.
The driveway scene with Audrey, Bernadette, and Bee is my favorite part of the whole film. All three performances rocked me and made me mutter “hell yeah!” in the theater.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score is truly enchanting. It’s simple, yet can make a scene seem very big and cinematic when it needs to. Each track was orchestrated to be its own thing, and somehow simultaneously creating a consistent flow. The scenery is very gloomy for the most part, and I think the violin/piano/cello-based tracks work with it as well as the warmer, orchestra synth sound later on. Man, I wish I knew how to describe music better. It’s just really good, ok? You’re just going to have to take my word for it.
Bruce Curtis creates a world that entrapped me the entire run-time. The best scenery for me is Bernadette’s house, which is a playground for her where you can see what her creative gremlin got its hands on if you look closely. The wallpaper in her living room still has me swooning. Not only did he master the places the characters roam in real time, but the spaces that Bernadette created in the past that appear to be straight out of an interior design catalog. We see them in the old videos of her working and it’s not just one or two places, it’s several. This also includes intricate props that make up her sculptures and other beautiful art pieces. The design of this film is layered and beautiful, a lot like the characters, which is a big fat ‘YES’ for me.
I’m very confused about the marketing for this film. Apparently it’s been sitting around for over a year waiting to be released. I wouldn’t have wanted to see it had I not seen the theatrical trailer months ago. The TV trailer is a watery mess advertising a “mystery” of some sort. It is, kind of, but not in the Nancy Drew way you might think. It frustrates me because this movie is so much more than it’s one-glance-trailer that seems to be turning people off. No, I don’t suspect Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a film for everyone, but it really is a treasure for those who it’s going to resonate with.