In Where’d You Go, Bernadette a complex character, her motivations, fears and aspirations are all revealed in a powerful and funny story that takes us to the end of the Earth. Bernadette (Cate Blanchett) is a MacArthur Fellowship winner, a genius in her own time. But she has an especially hard time with human interaction, even using a virtual personal assistant in lieu of an actual therapist. There were many times during this film where I laughed out loud, which possibly was made easier by the fact that we were the only people in the theater. However, some of the best films we have watched were in sparse to empty theaters, like Death of Stalin and Free Solo.
I didn’t realize this movie was made by Richard Linklater but since Slacker, his films have impressed me. Unlike some of his contemporaries, he doesn’t hit you over the head with the minutia of everything from pop culture to haute couture that he knows. He just carries you along for the ride, you get the references — which D always did — or you don’t. At the same time, you wonder how in this day and age when there is a clamor and need for more women directors, a strong female driven drama like this is still green-lighted for a guy. Do you think that if a woman had directed this film that the opening and closing moments would be the voice over of a child? It takes the punch and power away from the protagonist. And I would say the use of that voice over is my strongest critique of this film. In spite of that, I did thoroughly enjoy the movie. I’d love to see Cate Blanchett nominated for an Academy Award for this performance. She is truly a genius, playing a genius here. And for the cafe scene alone, I would give Laurence Fishburne a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. He gives us some of the best lines ever and certainly in this movie, “People like you must create.” He says to Bernadette, “If you don’t create, you will become a menace to society.”
There is also a great Rashomon Effect in the film as we the audience are able to jump back and forth from various points of view, like Bernadette’s husband Elgie, played strongly by Billy Cruddup and her neighbor Audrey played by Kristen Wiig, who shows off her dramatic range.
All in all, even though the film grinds through a predictable and not that enthralling third act, it’s still mostly entertaining and interesting. I would recommend it to anyone looking for great performances, an intelligent screenplay and some fine Antarctic cinematography to boot.