Review | Cate Blanchett stars in ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’

Where’d You Go Bernadette | Dir: Richard Linklater | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) is a larger-than-life stay at home mum to precocious teenager Bee (Emma Nelson). Married to a relatively quiet software developer Elgie Branch (Billy Crudup), she leads a semi-reclusive life in a rambling decrepit house in Seattle that used to be a reform school for girls.

Bernadette dreads having to interact with people outside the house and uses a technological personal assistant in India to avoid having to see people face to face. She is seen as an eccentric who enjoys her rude intolerance of people, but the film gradually reveals more about her life and why she has remained stuck for the last twenty years.

Bernadette was an award-winning architect but, like her house that is falling down around her, her passion for design has crumbled. Crippled by insomnia, she wanders around the decaying house at night becoming more and more paranoid, fighting battles with herself and cutting the carpet so that the rambling blackberry bush can grow into the house.

Based on the bestselling novel by Maria Semple, Cate Blanchett’s performance is mesmerising as a broken person lashing out at the world around her and trying to continue with her life in the hope that things will improve. The turning point is when Bee persuades her parents to take her on a trip to Antarctica. Of course the path is littered with potential disasters, all revolving around Bernadette.

The breath-taking opening shots show that Bernadette does get to Antarctica despite all the often hilarious but nevertheless very real obstacles. While the narrative takes some improbable turns (remember it is fiction despite being anchored with familiar landmarks), it presses all the right emotional buttons. 

So the beginning is the ending and the ending is the beginning, and the director of Boyhood and Before Sunrise continues to explore the cycle of life. We do eventually recover from betrayal and heartache to find fulfillment in our lives … it just takes some of us longer.

Lezly Herbert

An introduction to Richard Linklater

Where’d You Go Bernadette s the twentieth film from American Director Richard Linklater whose career has included indie cult classics alongside more mainstream fare.

Linklater’s first film It’s Impossible to Learn to plow From Reading Books was made in 1988, featuring very little dialogue or plot it didn’t get a wide release and is included as a bonus feature on the DVD release of his breakout hit Slacker.

In 1991 his low budget film Slacker, which was shot on 16mm film was a hit an the Sundance Film Festival getting Linklater a lot of attention from the film industry. The cult classic features a group of under-30’s in Austin Texas, and follows their conversations and personal stories switching from one character to another.

Linklater’s next film Dazed and Confused would have a more significant budget and star a roll call of up and coming young actors.  Following a gang of students on the last day of high school in 1976, the cast included Mathew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Ben Affleck, Jason London, Rory Cochrane, Milla Jovovich, Cole Hauser and many others. Featuring a stellar soundtrack of tunes it became a video store favourite.

Before Sunrise (1995) was the first of a trio of films the director made with French actress Julia Delpy and American actor Ethan Hawke. The film follows the couple from their initial meeting at a train station and follows them as they spend a night wandering the streets of Vienna. In 2004 the trio made a follow up Before Sunset and then in 2013 they reunited for Before Midnight. 

As Linklater’s career progressed he made more mainstream movies such as a remake of The Bad News Bears and mega-hit School of Rock. He also made more experimental films including A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life which made use of rotoscoping a technique that combines film and animation, and Tape – a real time film that was shot on a camcorder.

One of the directors most ambitious projects was released in 2014. Boyhood is a story that follows a family as their son ages from six to eighteen. The film starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette was filmed over 12 years beginning its production in 2001.

While Where’d You Go Bernadette is Linklater’s latest film he’s got two more in the works Apollo 10½ due out in 2021 will be a new rotoscope film that focusses on children’s fantasies about the moon landings.  Additionally Linklater has been hired to directed the film version of the Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along – but apparently its being filmed in a similar methodology to Boyhood, and since the story is set over 20 years, you might have to wait until 2039 for it’s release.

OIP Staff

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