Friday Film Review - "Where’d You Go, Bernadette”

Aug 23, 2019

The new film, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” doesn’t get a thumbs down but it’s not the best outing for an indie director who was discovered at Sundance.

Well known independent film director and screenwriter, Richard Linklater, has returned to the big screen with the comedy drama, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”, based on the 2012 book of the same name by Maria Semple.

Bernadette Fox is snarky, quirky, and an agoraphobe, who suffers from an inability to play well with others. At one time, Bernadette was an award-winning architect compared to the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry, but she inexplicably dropped off everyone’s radar just at the peak of her career. Now, as Bernadette and her family plan for a rather impromptu trip to Antarctica, Bernadette starts to derail as the stress of the trip, causes her to overindulge in online retail therapy ordering an incredible number of questionable items. This, coupled with her less than friendly interactions with her neighbor, finally cause Bernadette to crash head-on into her fears and losses and, once again, mysteriously disappear.

Linklater, as screenwriter, admits that the book did not lend itself to film adaptation, so if you have read the book, expect a number of major differences. Along with these deviations, Linklater’s screenplay suffers from other flaws. The biggest of these is the lack of motivation for much of what happens in the film. A lot of background information is provided, but it is never fully linked to Bernadette’s emotional standing during the film. Then, when some surprising events occur, the audience is left having to quickly fill in the gaps on their own and accept the ensuing events as being totally reasonable.

The cast does well together, but Linklater, as director, has again disappointed by not having been able to pull the cast together into a well-oiled ensemble. Everyone does at least an adequate job, but the performances are at different levels and with the lack of established motivation for the characters’ actions, some performances are at times

a bit stiff. Cate Blanchett, as Bernadette, and Kristen Wiig, as the high-strung neighbor, Audrey, are the true standouts in the film.

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette”, offers some spectacular views of what is supposed to be Antarctica, but, in reality, is Greenland. As with the rest of the film some details of credibility are lacking. The trip takes place in December, when temperatures are more than cold enough in Antarctica for you to see your breath, but at no time in the film does this happen and quite often people have no hats on making it hard to believe that this really is December. A highlight, though, comes at the end of the film with a mix of animation and actual footage showing a building project coming to life.

Despite its flaws, there are enough engaging scenes in “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”, to make it an enjoyable enough watch in the general scheme of things.

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette”, is rated PG-13 for some strong language and drug material and is a well-paced 2 hours and 10 minutes in length.