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Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Movie Review

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is the sort of film that’s interesting to write about as it is well made and entertaining, but there is an uncertainty over how we’re supposed to interpret the characters. The movie is self-aware about its title character’s behaviour, but are we still meant to root for her? Richard Linklater takes a curious approach as he mixes comedy with the more sentimental elements. At the centre is a great performance from Cate Blanchett, who brings the necessary drollness to her architect. Linklater also makes some clever storytelling decisions in how exposition is presented to the audience. It’s a fascinating film that does require a little more time to process after the initial viewing.

The best scenes of Where’d You Go, Bernadette focus on the relationship between Bernadette and her daughter Bee. We see the natural camaraderie between the two and how they sync up. Despite her occasionally cynical viewpoints, she genuinely loves her daughter. Newcomer Emma Nelson portrays Bee as smart and sure of herself, but never in a cloying way. We sense more of a distance between Bernadette and her tech guru husband Elgie and Billy Crudup effectively shows his uncertainty about his wife’s behaviour. Through Kristen Wiig’s neighbour, we sense Linklater’s annoyance with home owner’s societies and wealthy suburbia and he takes some curious directions with her characterization.

A lot of the screenplay’s humour does hit and part of this comes from Blanchett’s performance. Blanchett commands the screen with how the dialogue rolls off her tongue and is further proof of why she is one of the best actresses working today. Linklater also smartly uses modern devices to reveal Bernadette’s history and musings. Characters are shown watching a YouTube documentary about her, giving us enough background and it’s even edited like a legitimate video exposé, complete with talking heads. Bernadette is also frequently shown rambling dictation into her tablet, which proves important later on.

The movie takes a detour in the third act and while necessary to the plot, the final point feels like it’s already been made long ago. We spend just a little too much time here and we’re just waiting for the inevitable conclusion. Ultimately, what are the ideas the film is trying to convey? Are we meant to sympathise with Bernadette, especially when other characters start to legitimately feel she has lost control of herself? Or is the movie making fun of her? Bernadette is portrayed as a loving mother and isn’t that the important thing? These are a few of the questions sure to rattle in one’s brain after a viewing of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

This is the sort of movie that will be interpreted in all sorts of different ways by audiences and likely not how Richard Linklater intended. That is bound to happen with a movie with a lead protagonist who doesn’t necessarily fit into a neat little box and which many ideas are being given to us. The casting of Cate Blanchett is a smart choice and there are enough funny scenes and lines in Where’d You Go, Bernadette to entertain. Does the film entirely succeed? It’s an odd duck of a movie and one I’m still not entirely sure what to think of just yet.

Stefan Ellison

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