WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE – Review by Susan Granger

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Unfortunately, Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Maria Semple’s 2012 best-seller doesn’t make a smooth transition to the screen.

Semple’s anarchic, non-linear story revolves around an affluent, if eccentric, middle-aged woman who submerges her identity with that of her family, losing her sense of self. On paper, her daughter’s inner thoughts propel the narrative. On-film, this doesn’t work.

The opening shot shows Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) alone in a kayak, navigating through Antarctica’s ice floes – a setting to which the story will return.

A flashback reveals that Bernadette lives in a ramshackle, old mansion in suburban Seattle with her workaholic husband Elgie Branch (Billy Crudup), an artificial intelligence Microsoft millionaire. They have a devoted 15 year-old daughter Bee (Emma Nelson) and a golden retriever named Ice Cream.

Before marriage and motherhood, Bernadette was an innovative architect, recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant. Now a stay-home-mom, she’s a reclusive neurotic, acidly sparring with her uptight neighbor Audrey (Kristin Wiig), who hires a “blackberry abatement specialist” to probe the undergrowth between their homes along with battling to maintain “global correctitude” at a posh private school.

At lunch, a former colleague, Paul Jellinek (Laurence Fishburne), perceives Bernadette’s dilemma. “People like you must create,” he tells her. But how – after many years – can she re-ignite her creative spark and retrieve her sense of self?

Cate Blanchett notes: “What I find really poignant about Bernadette is these crazy, absurd monologues and the relationship she has with a virtual assistant because she’s so isolated. People don’t often talk about how you can be in a really happy, successful relationship but still feel alone.”

Adapted by Holly Gent, Vincent Palmo Jr. and director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Boyhood, the Before trilogy), it suffers from an uneven, inconsistent tone and oversimplification of the complicated source material. On the plus side are cameos from Judy Greer, Steve Zahn, Zoe Chao and Megan Mullally.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is an anticlimactic, floundering 5, not unlike its heroine.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.