Feel The Bern

A title character isn’t the only thing missing in Linklater’s latest

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Roxy Theatre

Opens Friday 13
2 out of 5

For a filmmaker who’s responsible for one of the strongest sagas in cinema history (the Before trilogy with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke), Richard Linklater can sure make clunkers. His craft as a director is beyond reproach, but some of his subjects aren’t very compelling: think the jocks of Everybody Wants Some!!, or the bashful murderer in Bernie.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette falls into that camp. Based on the best-seller by Maria Semple, one could uncharitably describe the film as millionaires battling boredom. Cate Blanchett plays Bernadette, a fussy retired architect married to a dotcom tycoon (Billy Crudup, as lost as the rest of us) whose disdain for her neighbours, and people in general, goes from quirky to concerning as her clashes with others become the norm.

Bernadette’s issues can be traced to her days as an avant garde architect. Her vision was celebrated by her peers, but lost on prospective clients, and her creative frustration seems to have led to mental distress. A promised trip to Antarctica with her teenage daughter may be the catalyst to break her from her funk — if she makes it out alive, that is.

The story is brought briefly to life by some comic elements, and insights that are offered into the creative impulse in artists. Unfortunately, there is no sense of urgency, and Bernadette never appears as unhinged as the other characters see her. The trip itself is a snooze — which is quite an achievement given how rarely Antarctica is the setting of any movie (it’s actually Greenland, but the point stands).

To make a bad situation worse, Linklater softens the edges of Semple’s novel — specifically, the husband’s infidelity, and the pregnancy of his lover. That reduces the film to a laundry list of rich-white-people problems where it’s impossible to empathize with the characters. A critical plot point even hinges on Bernadette’s “remote assistant”. For an infinitely superior Cate-Blanchett-losing-her-marbles flick, see Blue Jasmine.