Saturday 17 February 2024

Movie Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2019)

Genre: Comedy Drama  
Director: Richard Linklater  
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Kristen Wiig, Laurence Fishburne, Judy Greer  
Running Time: 109 minutes  

Synopsis: In Seattle, Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) lives in a fixer-upper mansion with her husband Elgie (Billy Crudup), a Microsoft executive, and their teenaged daughter Bee. Bernadette was once a rising star in the world of architecture, but stopped working after a series of set-backs. She now avoids socializing, relying on an India-based digital assistant for most tasks, and particularly dislikes her intrusive neighbour Audrey (Kristen Wiig). When Bee proposes a family trip to Antarctica, Bernadette's stress levels spike.

What Works Well: The first two thirds offer a razor-sharp comic-dramatic portrait of a strong-willed woman in emotional trouble. With Cate Blanchett in fine form, director and co-writer Richard Linklater adapts Maria Semple's book with an emphasis on Bernadette gliding through life using a caustic attitude to avoid confronting depression. Laughs combine with revelations, all anchored by a warm mother-daughter relationship offering an escape route from the doldrums.

What Does Not Work As Well: The final act is a bland let-down, descending into a schmalzy combination of glacier scenery and simple solutions suddenly available in the remotest corner of the planet. Some characters, including a therapist (Judy Greer) and an FBI agent, enter with a flourish but are then summarily abandoned. 

Conclusion: Bernadette sparkles when restless in Seattle, but slips when surrounded by ice.

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