Cast: Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Emma Nelson, Kristen Wiig
Director: Richard Linklater
Well, not all my predictions can be perfect. Looking back at my future best movies of 2019 guesses, two of them look like they won’t come out this year and Where’d You Go Bernadette ending up disappointing more than exceeding expectations. When you have a power duo like Linklatter and Blanchett at the helm of your movie, at the very least the movie should be alright. In the case of Where’d You Go Bernadette, Blanchett’s performance keeps the movie afloat, but the odd tone and unclear premise weigh the film down and prevent it from reaching its true potential.
The film follows Bernadette Fox (Blanchett), a once world-renowned architect who has been a recluse who hates the world around her for the past two decades. When these problems finally come to a head surrounding her daughter Bee’s (Nelson) decision to take a family trip to Antarctica, Bernadette runs away from her family and tries to reignite the spark of passion in her life that she had when she was an architect. Linklater movies tend to ride the ride between smart and funny and weird and too campy for its own good, and this is still the case with Where’d You Go Bernadette. Most of the humor comes from Bernadette’s wit and sarcasm based on her situation, but ultimately the humor doesn’t always hit the mark. Blanchett is probably the only reason why the humor hits at all and her diverse and storied track record keep this film level and prevent its ridiculous nature from falling off the edge and becoming too unrealistic. Blanchett captures all of proper emotions that Bernadette is feeling and shows them in a way that may not make Bernadette likable, but to some degree she’s relatable. This can make it tough to root for Bernadette since she doesn’t have a lot of qualities that audience members necessarily like, so it takes some time for us to warm up to her. The main issue the movie faces is with its plot. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a pacing problem, but the movie is about 80% exposition with a semblance of resolution coming towards the end of the film. Especially based on how this movie was promoted, I expected it to be more of a mystery with comedic elements, but it’s much more of a dramedy than anything else. By the time the movie actually gets to the point it’s trying to make, we’re deep into the 109 minute runtime with little room for the film to go except exactly where you think it will go. I wish the film was better spaced out where we got more of a sense of true conflict instead of the majority of the movie portraying defeatist and abnormal behavior and then running away from it. I don’t know if Linklater can assume all the blame for this failure though since the source material may have dictated that the story went that way. Regardless, Where’d You Go Bernadette is a very typical yet quirky movie that is far from the best of both Linklater and Blanchett’s careers.
Overall, if this movie is the worst of my predictions for 2019, then honestly I didn’t do that poorly. Where’d You Go Bernadette has enough charm and intelligence where you can pick out some moments that are genuinely enjoyable, but at the same time the script just isn’t smoothed out enough to make this movie truly impactful. Sure it’s not the best movie of the year, but it certainly didn’t deserve to bomb the way it has been during its run. Linklater movies can be an acquired taste and it just looks like audiences decided that Where’d You Go Bernadette isn’t for them.
Overall Score: 5/10