Where’d You Go, Bernadette, 2019, 1 ¼ stars

Where’d you go, Linklater?

Image copyright Annapurna Pictures

Exclusive to MeierMovies.com, August 18, 2019

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? More like: Where’d you go, Linklater? Because the new dramedy starring Cate Blanchett and Billy Crudup barely resembles the best work by the acclaimed writer-director.

Richard Linklater’s latest project is an example of an adaptation that probably never should have happened. Based on the 2012 novel by Maria Semple, it’s the story of a woman (a wife, mother and formerly acclaimed architect) stuck in a semi-permanent life crisis and artistic paralysis. But because the book’s story unfurls in a series of documents (memos, e-mails, etc.), it’s a tough match for the screen. And, frankly, Linklater seems utterly clueless about how to conquer its structural issues, exacerbating them with enormous tonal mistakes, narrative drift, sophomoric scoring and miscalculated performances, including one by the usually brilliant Blanchett that – for the first time ever – left me genuinely embarrassed for her.

Kristen Wiig (in some sort of half-ass, comic-relief role), Billy Crudup (Bernadette’s husband), Judy Greer (a psychologist) and an underused Laurence Fishburne (Bernadette’s old friend and colleague) are all similarly at sea, metaphorically, thanks more to Linklater than their own acting choices. And don’t blink or you will miss Megan Mullally, David Paymer and Steve Zahn. (It’s a sign of respect for Linklater that they all would sign on for such tiny parts.)

The only bright spark is newcomer Emma Nelson, who plays Bernadette’s daughter. She’ll be traveling to better cinematic destinations soon. But as for her current film, it should just go away.

Copyright 2019 © Cameron Meier