Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Women's Picture? Sure


17 August 2019| No Comments on Where’d You Go, Bernadette     by Sean Chavel


I was led on expecting an old fashioned women’s picture of a slightly stressed mom who needs a vacation or a flight of fancy and got hit with something heavier. Uh, uh, I mean ugh, somebody needs to give Cate Blanchett a tranquilizer and sedate this poor creature.

I think Blanchett’s performance of mania, narcissism and delusions of grandeur in “Blue Jasmine” is one of the great performances that I’ve seen in the last twenty years. Blanchette’s Bernadette Fox in Where’d You Go, Bernadette is Jasmine 2.0, she is Jasmine Redux, she is Seattle Gray Tones Jasmine. Jasmine to such a zealous extreme that there’s a couple of scenes early on I had to turn my ears off. I could not stand listening to this yammering bore.

Bernadette has a tech extraordinaire husband (Billy Crudup) and a smart as a whip teenage girl (Emma Nelson) who has convinced the family to take a trip to Antarctica for a month holiday, and all Bernadette wants to do is subterfuge the plans so she can get out of it. She goes into all different types of destruction modes (running over Kristen Wiig’s foot is a low point, I mean low, as in I grumbled).

Does anyone else in the movie not notice that there’s something terribly wrong with this woman? For more than fifteen minutes, I was unsure that anybody else was aware of this.

When the other characters do confront and combat Bernadette, hit her up with some truth that she’s undergoing mania, then I followed the film again. I realized it was not just “Blue Jasmine,” I was recollecting another comparison of the past, the forgotten 1993 gem “Mr. Jones” which took seriously Richard Gere’s manic depression.

Once I got acclimated to the more serious intent of Where You’d Go, Bernadette, I liked it more.

I was completely rah-rah going in because it was a Richard Linklater film (I’m going with “Me and Orson Welles” as my Linklater obscure reference here, let’s talk “Boyhood” another time). The ads promised an inspirational ends-of-the-earth vacation; the ads promised a happy Blanchett. Was this friendly-seeming package of content an outlier for the esteemed director, a deliberate one to offer some amelioration and throwback whirlwind adventure for the uptight bourgeois? That’s what it looked like! I had serious doubts against Where’d You Go, Bernadette, gasping for last breaths before I had… had… had just had it(!!!!), until Linklater brought in a psychiatrist and the FBI, and summoned up some “Mr. Jones” level of sincerity.

Yes, we learn that Bernadette has suppressed genius that has since stifled, and yes, we finally get to Antarctica. The opening shots of the film were of Antarctica, so we knew we were going there. And wow, the tail-end of this film is terrific, both sightly and eccentric. There are shots of glacier ice curled and corkscrewed to such astounding natural degrees that they would have fit right in Christopher Nolan’s fabulous ice planet segment in “Interstellar.” Bernadette, while on a continent of nothing but ice herself, finds a way to create and that helps her work out of the misanthropic funk that’s been keeping her down as a wife and mother for years and years.

So that liberation of a character finding herself is like an old-fashioned women’s picture, after all.

It’s so nice at the end; you realize, eccentric! But I have to recall all the sighs and yikes it took to live up until Bernadette became watchable. I’d say see it if you love Linklater as a classicalist director and appreciate not every movie has to be a four-star benchmark, that sometimes you can appreciate a director airing out a little bit and going for a three-star movie deviation once in awhile, and even tolerate a two-and-a-half one, then yeah, go for Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Sometimes it’s (refreshing is not the right word), sometimes it’s (damn, stalling here), sometimes it’s peculiar of yourself to go watch a peculiar movie once in awhile.

103 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “The Sterile Cuckoo” (1969); “Mr. Jones” (1993); “Blue Jasmine” (2013); “Mommy” (2014, Canada).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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