Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Movie Review: "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" (2019)

Director: Richard Linklater
Year: 2019
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

A former architect has turned her once creative drive into destructive behavior. She hopes to reignite her passionate spark, and in turn, put her and her family's lives back in order.

Movie still for the 2019 film Where'd You Go Bernadette where Cate Blanchett, wearing large frame sunglasses, walks out of her husbands office with her daughter, played by Emma Nelson
"Adjusting is a disorder?" (Image Source)
Creative people must create. If not, they become stifled to the point where they lash out in destructive ways. Such is the case with Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) in the 2019 Richard Linklater film "Where'd You Go, Bernadette." Linklater is known for directing films like "Dazed and Confused," "Boyhood," and "The Before Trilogy" ("Before Sunrise," "Before Sunset," "Before Midnight"). He also helped write the screenplay along with Holly Gent and Vincent Palmo Jr., which is based on the novel of the same name by Maria Semple. Bernadette Fox was one of the most promising young architects in her younger years and was viewed as an artistic prodigy. She was innovative, iconic, a household name in Los Angeles and around the globe, and had already been awarded the Genius Grant, until one day, she up and quit. She got married to a tech developer named Elgie Branch (Billy Crudup) and shifted her focus to becoming a mother and raising their brilliant daughter Bee (Emma Nelson). Bee is getting older and is becoming more independent. She has aspirations of going to boarding school on the east coast, which means Bernadette needs to find other news ways of occupying her time. Their entire family is also going on a trip to Antarctica to celebrate Bee's perfect grades. As more and more stress looms over Bernadette's head, she is at a loss about what to do. Her mind is all over the place, and she has a bunch of unchanneled creative energy with no outlet to release it. This leads to passive-aggressive, careless, destructive behavior. After a series of misunderstandings, Elgie raises concerns about Bernadette's mental health. Instead of dealing with institutionalized psychiatric care, she decides to run away and work out her problems in her own way.
Cate Blanchett and Billy Crudup talk about Bernadette's problems over dinner in a restaurant in a movie still for Richard Linklater's drama Where'd You Go, Bernadette
"A little social anxiety never hurt anyone, am I right?" (Image Source)
What can go wrong with a film directed by Richard Linklater starring Cate Blanchett? Apparently a lot. We can't help but feel that there is a better version of "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" on a cutting room floor somewhere. IMDb swears this movie is over 2 hours in length, but it's definitely not. The cut we saw was 107 minutes, so maybe a lengthier version exists somewhere out there? Either way, this specific incarnation of the material feels chopped to bits and disjointed as hell. Linklater doesn't really take the time to develop and shape the characters well. The script lacks focus, and it can feel erratically handled. We thought maybe this style of storytelling was intentional to make the audience experience Bernadette's inconsistent, unpredictable line of thinking, but that seems like an enormous stretch considering all it does it disrupt film's flow. Specific happenings are brought up, only to be forgotten and/or handled off-screen with a simple throwaway line of dialogue. For example, Bernadette has a working relationship with someone named Manjula, her virtual personal assistant from India. What happens with that character is discussed at length, only to be resolved off-screen. We don't need our hands held during every sordid detail, but it makes the whole ordeal feel unnecessary and superfluous. There's also an odd expositive narration from Bee that starts and ends and starts and ends and starts again out of nowhere. If it weren't for Cate Blanchett's incredible acting of such a frazzled character, we probably wouldn't so kind to this movie. Blanchett captures the very nature of an artistic woman struggling to find her identity with extreme accuracy. Bernadette is an individual who has lost her sense of purpose and is a person who dislikes other people and lashes out in the most passive-aggressive ways possible. Without Blanchett, this project would have floundered more than it already did. The other actors manage to do a great job with the material they are given, especially Emma Nelson, who gives a terrific performance as Bee. Kristen Wiig is also excellent as Bernadette's high-strung "gnat" neighbor, Audrey.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2019) movie still where Emma Nelson and Billy Crudup sneakily watch Cate Blanchett create her masterpiece
"I love mom just the way she is." (Image Source)
While we weren't bored by "Where'd You Go, Bernadette," we left the theater disappointed with the final product of this dramedy. Richard Linklater's interpretation of Maria Semple's novel may very well have been torn to bits by the studio (Annapurna), or maybe, just maybe, it wasn't very good to begin with. Either way, this was a bit of a letdown for us, apart from Cate Blanchett's exceptional performance.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
RT Rating: 46%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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