Saturday, December 21, 2019

Movie with Abe: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Directed by Richard Linklater
Released August 16, 2019

When a person goes somewhere, that can be taken either literally or figuratively. There are those who travel all around the world, seeing as much as they can and taking it in, which can be motivated either by a desire to interact more with society or to escape from it. And then there are those who might stay in just one geographical place and journey to a different head space, imagining great possibilities that seem unattainable or retreating within themselves to build walls and a way to cope with not being able to physically go somewhere. Whatever their reasons or choices, they’re often not understood even by those closest to them.

Bernadette (Cate Blanchett) was a forward-thinking architect who accomplished much before an unfortunate setback that ultimately brought her to Seattle with her tech giant husband Elgie (Billy Crudup) and teenage daughter Bee (Emma Nelson). She spends most of her time sending messages to her virtual assistant while ignoring her neighbor Audrey (Kristen Wiig), who chastises her lack of participation in school activities and all other concerns. When Bee proposes a trip to Antarctica, Bernadette initially agrees but then starts closing herself off more to the world, worrying Elgie, whose perception of his wife is being poisoned by Audrey’s good friend Soo-Lin (Zoe Chao), who happens to be his newest employee.

This film is based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Maria Semple. Its title references its protagonist’s tendency to disappear within herself as well as her literal response to being confronted about the state of her mental health. Blanchett famously starred in the 2007 film “I’m Not There” about the many faces of Bob Dylan, which serves as an exploration of conflicting aspects of his personality. That film, while completely different, does a far better job of tackling its characters’ motivations and desires. This film feels random and rather directionless, crafted with broad archetypes in a moderately unhinged story that never manages to be all that interesting.

Director Richard Linklater is known for past films such as the “Before Sunrise” trilogy and “Boyhood,” and this latest effort is a severe disappointment. There’s nothing particularly extraordinary about it, and it’s not nearly funny enough to be properly perceived as an effective comedy. Blanchett, whose nomination for a Golden Globe is what inspired this reviewer to watch this film, isn’t trying terribly hard, combining an incessant ability to monologue from “Blue Jasmine” with an introverted resolve on display in other films. Crudup is wasted, especially given how good he has been recently on “The Morning Show.” This film isn’t necessarily bad, but there’s nothing great or memorable about it either.


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