Where’d Ya Go, Bernadette

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Just like with Tarantino, I’m hit-and-miss with director Richard Linklater, but always look forward to their new movies.

This one is adapted from the novel by Maria Semple. 

Bernadette (Cate Blanchett) is a woman that doesn’t seem all that happy with her life. She’s great with her daughter, but often picks fights with her neighbors. At first we’re rooting for her, since her neighbors are those snotty movie types that merely stand around and gossip after dropping their kids off at school. Yet the grouchier Bernadette becomes, the more you realize (with the help of her daughter Bee doing a Google search on her)…that she was a hot architect in L.A. that dropped out of that scene, to live a quiet life in a crumbling Seattle mansion, with her rich husband (Billy Crudup), who does Ted talks about his latest technological inventions. 

The relationship between mother and daughter (newcomer Emma Nelson) is interesting, yet it’s hard to figure out why they both have a resentment towards dad. In fact, late in the movie, my wife brought up something I was also thinking about — why did the daughter go off on her dad, as if he’s the reason mom is so miserable. 

The first third of this movie was interesting, and I was curious to see where things would go with these characters. [side note: why is Kristen Wiig, one of the funniest cast members in SNL history, constantly playing annoying characters on screen?]

Yet as the movie went on, Bernadette got more annoying. Scenarios became more unrealistic. I’m also not sure how people who have family members with mental illness, will take to this goofy characterization of it (basically, she needs a little R&R, and to get back to creating works of art, to get out of her funk).

I won’t give away too much, but…the family is planning a trip to Antarctica. The FBI shows up, as well as a psychiatrist, because of some of the things Bernadette has gotten into. This mini intervention, leads to Bernadette disappearing, and the trip being put on hold. Sort of. 

There are two problems with the Bernadette character. The first is that Blanchette plays her similarly to how she played her character in Blue Jasmine (popping pills, talking non-stop, and being annoying). The second problem is…as the humorous scene in which Laurence Fishburne listens to one of her annoying 10 minute rants before saying, “Are you finished?” The audience, too…wondered when she’d be “finished.” We wouldn’t want to spend any time with this person in person, so why would we want to watch two hours of her?

While I don’t mind her acerbic attitude towards neighbors that seem to be jerks, she treats her husband horribly, as well as a fan that recognizes her. It also appeared that her attitude was starting to rub off on her daughter, who was an intelligent, likable kid early in the film.

Also, the whole premise being that the dad works too many hours at the tech firm he founded and isn’t a good father, just doesn’t fly. We see him having nice interactions with his family, and he’s giving them a great life. He’s not pressuring his wife not to work, she’s the one that wanted to quit. And…(I won’t give it away, but)…if at the end of the movie she has decided to build a project (that will surely take a few years, and easily take her away from her family)…is that not worse than the husband working long hours? Oh wait…this is cathartic for her, so we’re supposed to be happy that she got her architectural groove back.

There was some good comedic relief in the picture that worked. At one fancy brunch, a character mentions a guest being Jeff Bezios’ brother-in-law. Another guest talks about their 1st graders class, and how one of the dads is in Pearl Jam. Her friend responds, “Eddie?”

I could do without yet another movie that has people singing along to the radio in the car for comedy (this time, it’s mother and daughter to Cyndi Lauper). But at least the throw-up scene, which seems to happen in so many movies these days, didn’t happen. Someone got seasick on a boat, and grabbed a bowl…but we didn’t see the final results.

There were some cameos from actors I liked as talking heads, in a documentary about Bernadette (Steve Zahn and Megan Mullally). 

The 3rd act was a little interesting, but would’ve been more so if we cared about any of these characters.

Another movie that will go down in the “The book was better” file.

2 stars out of 5.


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