The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE | The Movie Waffler


A pill-popping former architect grows increasingly troubled.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer, Zoë Chao, Laurence Fishburne, Emma Nelson, Steve Zahn, Megan Mullaly

Where'd You Go, Bernadette poster

The question of where did Where'd You Go, Bernadette go has finally been answered as Richard Linklater's adaptation of Maria Semple's epistolary novel sneaks its way onto UK/ROI VOD. Originally set for a cinema release in summer 2018, Linklater's movie was pushed back several times, seemingly undergoing much tinkering in the editing room before it dropped in US cinemas in August 2019, foregoing a theatrical release on this side of the pond. It's easy to see why its release was delayed so often, as the movie is as much of a trainwreck as the eponymous Bernadette.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette review

Played by a scenery chewing Cate Blanchett, Bernadette Fox is a once lauded architect now going increasingly mad, shut away in a crumbling fixer-upper in Seattle. Having married tech guru Elgin Branch (Billy Crudup), Bernadette gave up her career to focus on raising their daughter, Bee (Emma Nelson), who acts as the film's annoyingly twee narrator.

Increasingly dependent on pills, Bernadette is growing more and more unstable, leading to a war with her soccer mom neighbours Audrey (Kristen Wiig) and Soo-Lin (Zoë Chao), which results in Audrey's home being flooded when Bernadette removes the blackberry bushes holding a hill precariously in place. Deciding an intervention is required, Elgin enlists the aid of a psychiatrist (Judy Greer), but when Bernadette is confronted, she flees Seattle.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette review

The initial marketing for Where'd You Go, Bernadette suggested that Bernadette's flight would constitute the bulk of the narrative, but it doesn't actually occur until the film's final half hour. It's bizarrely rushed in a climax that suggests the screenwriters realised they were on a hiding to nothing and just wanted to wrap the whole damn thing up as quickly as possible.

A perusal of the plotline of Semple's novel reveals that several subplots have been excised from this screen treatment. The trouble isn't so much that they've been removed, but that their crumbs remain intact, leading to much head-scratching regarding unresolved developments. A lengthy bit of exposition detailing Bernadette's past life as a celebrated architect is doled out through Bernadette watching an online video essay, which mentions a British TV star, Nigel Mills Murray, whose name drives her nuts. It's the last we hear of Murray however. Similarly, the novel features an affair between Elgin and Soo-Lin, which doesn't occur here, yet early scenes indicate Soo-Lin's interest in Elgin may be fuelling her antipathy towards Bernadette.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette review

Linklater struggles to settle on a tone for his film. Early scenes are played for cheap slapstick laughs, accompanied by an intrusively chirpy score (two composers are credited, another sign of the film's indecisiveness). Midway through, the movie gets a little more serious as the extent of Bernadette's troubles are revealed. The Antarctica set climax then turns into one of those awful movies Cameron Crowe has been specialising in lately where a whitebread protagonist does something crazy in an effort to rediscover themselves. Similarly, Blanchett seems to think she's in a screwball comedy, with her energy dialled up to 11, making the rest of the cast appear positively somnolent. Just as Elgin lets his wife get away from him, so too does Linklater's film slip from his grasp and wander off in search of a narrative it never truly finds.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is on Netflix UK/ROI now.