Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2019)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

USA, 2019, Screenplay by , , , based on the novel by Cinematography by Produced by , , , Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by

Cate Blanchett plays an emotionally explosive woman living with her successful tech executive husband () and precocious teenage daughter () in Seattle, spending the majority of her time avoiding socialization with her neighbours and allowing her home, a converted Cathedral with no end of dangerous traps for humans and pets, to fester towards its doom. As we spend more time watching her rant from behind her giant sunglasses, we learn that Blanchett’s Bernadette was once a high-profile architect, awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant for creating a number of buildings of Zaha Hadid-level originality, but who walked away from it all twenty years earlier and is now oppressed by the weight of her own creative inertia. As she prepares to indulge her daughter’s desire to take a family trip to Antarctica, this woman who can barely be convinced to get to the end of her own driveway allows relations with her frenemy neighbour (, who, as is often the case, is highly watchable despite being wholly insincere) to corrode while the off-site digital assistant service that she pays for and relies on to handle her entire life turns out to put her family in grave danger. Confronted about where she’s ended up and told that she is in need of serious help, Bernadette instead decides to make a run for it in this adaptation of Maria Semple’s highly popular bestseller that has more than its fair share of enjoyable moments. There are elements that, once translated to the big screen, it turns out can only work in a book: plants growing under your carpets are only an opportunity for a metaphor on the printed page, in actuality they’re a financial disaster, and trips to the south pole are an indulgent caprice on the page while feeling somewhat twee when literalized visually. The first half of the film is better than the second, watching Blanchett rage against the people who keep trying to limit her is immensely satisfying, her character a more accomplished version of her Oscar-winning Jasmine, and because Linklater stacks the sympathy so high in her favour and makes her husband and friends so undeniably obnoxious, the story’s middle-of-the-road resolution feels like a cop-out when it’s probably meant to be enlightening. Newcomer Nelson shines as Bernadette’s daughter, holding her own beautifully with a number of very accomplished performers and bringing the right amount of adolescent fear and common-sense intelligence to the character.

Golden Globe Award Nomination:  Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Cate Blanchett)

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