Fans of Maria Semple’s book-club staple have long loved the mad protagonist of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”: a middle-aged mother who has lost her way and, quite possibly, her mind. Semple’s novel portrays this dramatic unraveling via a clever collection of modern detritus — emails, receipts, memos and interviews.
Richard Linklater’s adaptation is a much more straightforward affair, heavily reliant on star power to replace the literary stylings he and his co-writers (Holly Gent, Vincent Palmo, Jr.) have left behind. This approach is not an ideal match for the source material, and many may wish the book had been adapted by a filmmaker more connected to its distinctive idiosyncrasies.
But those who arrive without any preconceptions — or are willing to stray from the novel’s style — will appreciate the assets of a modestly engaging and gently touching dramedy.
Watch Video: Cate Blanchett Terrorizes Kristen Wiig’s Home in New ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette?’ Trailer
Decked out in an Anna Wintour bob and ever-present shades, Cate Blanchett is our frustrated misanthropist, Bernadette. Her husband, Elgin (Billy Crudup), spends his days (and often his nights) working on a cutting-edge project for Microsoft. Their daughter, Bee (excellent newcomer Emma Nelson) is acing eighth grade and hoping to go to boarding school. And Bernadette is hiding in their decrepit Seattle mansion, a former reform school for wayward girls.
Bernadette’s primary connection to the outside world is with Manjula, a virtual personal assistant in India. She also has the occasional contretemps with her severely uptight neighbor, Audrey (Kristen Wiig). The only person who understands Bernadette is Bee, who is also the only person uninterested in judging her. Indeed, Bee is delighted rather than surprised to discover that her mother, now universally considered a basket case, once won a MacArthur Genius Grant as the sole woman at her prestigious architecture firm. Bernadette is still revered as a visionary in her industry, but after several professional and personal tragedies, she retreated into the relative safety of her home.
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Only it’s not that safe, anymore. Once you start rolling down a hill, it’s hard to stop. And just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. So when Bee plans a family trip to Antarctica, every alarm bell in Bernadette’s already-overworked system goes off simultaneously.
That may sound like a lot of plot, but Linklater has actually streamlined many of the book’s complications. This makes for an easy watch, but also strips much of the original story’s depth. He’s made a similar trade-off in casting, stocking the film with pros — Laurence Fishburne, Judy Greer, Zoe Chao, Steve Zahn, Megan Mullally, Kate Burton, David Paymer, James Urbaniak — who flash by, welcome but underused. And Blanchett’s fans will love watching her act up a storm, devouring every scene like the star she is. But the reason this particular book resonates with so many people is that its brightly-burning heroine is also an everywoman.
Bernadette may …read more
Source:: The Wrap