Director Richard Linklater is a great talent in the film industry. The “Before Sunrise” trilogy, “Boyhood,” 2011’s “Bernie” and even 2017’s “Last Flag Flying,” have all been solid entries to his filmography in this reviewer’s opinion.
However, when it comes to “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” the filmmaker, along with the cast and crew, drop the ball.
Bernadette, played by Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, is a retired architect who now spends most of her time trying to restore the home where her family now resides. Her leaving the industry, though, has led to her enjoying life less and less, and it doesn’t help that she’s not exactly sociable.
The latter is especially portrayed by her having a bad relationships with other women in her neighborhood and her marriage becoming strained. As the movie progresses, these stress factors eventually become to much and Bernadette ends up leaving to pursue a sort of self discovery journey. By itself that’s not a particularly bad thing, except she doesn’t end up telling anybody.
“Where’d You Go” is shocking in how poorly executed it is. The movie is an absolute mess from its pacing, to its tone and even its characters. The movie spends way too long setting up all these issues, to the point where Bernadette doesn’t even leave until about halfway through the movie.
It’s called “Where’d You Go Bernadette” and for most of the movie she’s around her family instead of being on this supposed journey. The build-up isn’t even that compelling, either. It’s explained that there were certainly hardships for the titular character to deal with, yet they never feel all that insurmountable.
Now, that’s all well and good, obstacles don’t have to be monumental to have a compelling character arc, but the characters have to work in that scenario. They don’t here, more on that later.
Back to the story, the third act is a complete joke. As Bernadette is gone, her husband Elgie (Billy Crudup) and daughter Bee (Emma Nelson) end up looking for her. The interactions between the father and daughter are poorly written and ultimately point the blame for the whole situation they’re in at the wrong person.
What’s worse is what goes on with Bernadette. From the title, the expectation is for Bernadette to maybe travel the world and experience different cultures but she basically just goes to one location and has this epiphany out of basically nowhere.
It also doesn’t help that there are random sub-plots that show up and go basically nowhere, too.
Tone is another huge issue with the flick. There are several points where the movie is seemingly dealing with subjects like social anxiety and depression, which points toward a drama. However, there are sequences here that make the experience more like a screwball comedy and it just feels off.
Maybe the worst part of the movie are the characters, though, who are insufferable. The movie at first makes it seem like Bernadette is suffering from a mental illness but as time goes one it becomes clear she’s just an annoying narcissist who got her feelings hurt.
Blanchett is always good but she can’t rescue this character from being a complete disaster.
The supporting characters aren’t all that great, either. Elgie comes across as nearly incompetent at times while the filmmakers decided to make the daughter character completely unrealistic when compared to how kids actually are.
Again, that’s not to say the performances are all bad. The cast here is in fact talented and they do the best with what they’ve got. There wasn’t any phoning in here, but the material just isn’t strong enough.
Enduring “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” was a challenge. The characters are either unrealistic or unlikable, the story is cluttered and the ending tries to have a heartfelt moment that feels completely unearned. 1 out of 5.