Prolific & Original Writer/Director Richard Linklater Hits Another Career High With His Dramedy “Where’d You Go Bernadette”. Led By Two Time Oscar Winner Cate Blanchett Who Creates A Flawed & Complex Character In Another Career Performance. “Where’d You Go Bernadette” Is Tightly Plotted & Another Showcase In Linklater’s Ability To Display Human Relationships.
Richard Linklater is one of the most prolific, versatile and consistently original writer-directors. Linklater is definitely one of my favorite filmmakers. From “Dazed and Confused”, “School of Rock”, “Boyhood”, “The Before Trilogy” and through 2017’s “Last Flag Flying”. Linklater is back as co-writer and director of “Where’d You Go Bernadette”, a story adapted from the 2012 novel of the same name by Maria Semple.
The story’s title character Bernadette is played by two time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, who is unquestionably one of the great actors of our time. Blanchett creates a wonderfully flawed and complex character whose abrasive actions can make us laugh, but her struggles in remembering who she is and finding herself can also makes us cry. Blanchett finds a way to portray a number of emotions in subtle ways.
Richard Linklater has said that he cast Cate Blanchett, because “only a genius can portray a genius believably”. Blanchett’s Bernadette, is one of the most vibrant and complex characters in both Linklater’s and Blanchett’s filmography. The character of Bernadette is a brilliant, legendary architect who once designed an eco-friendly modernist home built completely from materials sourced within a 20-mile radius. Unfortunately she hit a major slump, and she hasn’t created anything since. She now lives in Seattle, in an enormous ramshackle house that looks like the house “The Munsters” use to live in. Bernadette lives with her husband, Elgie (a wonderful Billy Crudup) and their teenage daughter, Bee (an excellent Emma Nelson).
The always reliable Billy Crudup (“Almost Famous”) makes a nice voice of sanity as Elgie, who is a Microsoft tech visionary who tries to help keep his Bernadette grounded. Bee, played excellently by a winning newcomer named Emma Nelson, is plucky and smart, and she has managed to talk her parents into going on a family vacation to Antarctica before she departs for an elite boarding school. But it’s easy to see that all is not well with Bernadette, who loves her family, but hates leaving the house, loathes the other moms at her daughter’s school and despises people in general, because Bernadette thinks they’re all stupid and awful.
She sports a brown bob, likes to hide behind dark sunglasses and looks the other way when she’s approached by adoring fans or local busybodies, like her overbearing neighborhood nemesis, Audrey played by a terrific Kristen Wiig. Bernadette’s issues don’t end there as in addition to her antisocial streak, Bernadette suffers severe anxiety attacks and may or may not be hooked on prescription meds.
The title of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” works in asking what happened to the brilliant creative force Bernadette used to be? But it also takes on a more literal meaning as plotted out in the films third act, that sends the characters through a whirlwind of emotional twists. The third act also becomes a genuinely stirring tribute to a woman rediscovering her true calling in the unlikeliest place, that leads to one of the sweetest endings I’ve ever seen.
The script, which Linklater wrote with Holly Gent has a tightly plotted structure that can throw you off-balance. “Where’d You Go Bernadette” is filmed in a solid but straightforward style that’s conventionally constructed, a zippy and lightweight dramedy compared to the more audacious dramatic experiences of “Boyhood” and the romantic “Before Trilogy” that began with “Before Sunrise”. Linklater is a good observer of human relationships and “Where’d You Go Bernadette” keeps that quality going.
GRADE: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)