STARS: Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Emma Nelson, Kristen Wiig
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
It will require some patience and some faith to get through the early part of Where'd You Go, Bernadette. Patience and faith that director Richard Linklater is saving his best for last, because the first half of the film is talky and slow. Ironically, patience and faith are what are often required to deal with highly creative people, who can often come off as borderline mad.
Enter Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett), a "highly decorated" architect who came to national prominence and praise for her innovative style. But marriage and becoming a mother have caused Bernadette to disconnect from the fire and passion she once poured into her work. She's dismissive and rude to her admirers and is embroiled in a nasty feud with her neighbor, Audrey (Kristen Wiig).
Because she basically doesn't like people (in these times, I think more and more of us can identify). And she appears to be hooked on prescription drugs. So how and why does she end up in Antarctica after an FBI agent comes calling, revealing that the Russians may be plotting against her? (They've got their fingers in everything these days!) That's where your patience and faith in sticking with Where'd You Go, Bernadette pays off, in learning whether she's a true whack job or maybe someone who just needs to get her mojo back!
Billy Crudup plays Elgie, Bernadette's increasingly concerned and bewildered hubby, who is driven to lure his wife into an intervention, after coming to his wit's end with her increasingly erratic behavior.
Newcomer Emma Nelson shows promise as Bernadette's loyal and fiercely protective teen daughter, Bee. That's refreshing, because normally it's mom and daughter who are at odds with one another. Here, mom is just at odds with the rest of the world.
The pristine beauty of Antarctica goes on full display in the second half of the film. But I felt that there should have been more penguins, and that they should have been dancing around--or something. (Watching too many animated features will spoil you that way.)
The ending feels a bit tidy and formulaic, but it's worth the price of admission to watch a true master at her craft play another master at her craft, and give it all the frenetic nuance that portraying an eccentric creative genius requires.
Before I say one word—pro or con—about Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, I want to heap icicles of praise on the visually fascinating end credits. Do NOT exit the theater before they're done!
It's never easy portraying ultra neurotic artists on screen, showing their idiosyncrasies in manic bloom and yet having them come off as sympathetic. (I rest my case with a film like Pollack.) In this instance, however, screenwriters Holly Gent, Vince Palmo and director Richard Linklater manage to pull it off. With a ton of help from Cate Blanchett. This woman can play any part. From a crazy sister in Blue Jasmine(for which she won a 2013 Oscar), to a wealthy but repressed lesbian in Carol (for which she was nominated for a 2015 Oscar), to Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (for which she won a 2004 Best Supporting Actress award). A truly amazing talent!
Unlike Tim, I felt the story moved along at a comfortable pace from the get-go. There were enough tense moments—at school, at the dinner table, with the next door neighbor—to keep my attention from wandering. Okay, so maybe the meeting between Blanchett's character and fellow architect Lawrence Fishburne went on a bit too long... But I felt it was needed. (Nothing like rampant denial to make us believe this woman belonged in a looney bin.)
I found Where'd You Go, Bernadette? Really original. Even though the book by Maria Semple is billed as a novel, I kind of wished it was based on a real person. Go see this one, as I'm quite sure Ms. Blanchett will be up for yet another Academy Award in 2020.