Maria Semples Bestseller 2012 Where'd You Go, Bernadette turns the epistolary novel in the 21st century into madness. The story, spanning several continents and moving back and forth over a period of about 20 years, almost exclusively originates from "main documents": emails, faxes, blog posts, police reports, ship logs. The interweaving of these archive fragments is a passage of the first-person narrative of the protagonist, a 15-year-old girl from Seattle, trying to solve the mystery of the sudden disappearance of her socially concerned mother. The book moves nimbly through a series of sounds: funny social satire, antique farce, psychological tension, sincere family drama. All this results in a sharp and funny portrait of a fascinating, crazy woman in a mid-life crisis, about a teenager who realizes with the reader in real time the long-hidden truth about her mother's past.
Fitting Where'd You Go, Bernadette for the screen does not seem to be the most obvious project for Richard Linklater, a director who has been most successful in working with his own scripts. But if you look at his choices in a nearly 30-year career, Linklater has made as many stylistic changes as Semple, albeit never within a single work. He has adapted stage plays ( Tape ) and thrillers ( Bernie ) and staged a musical that later became a Broadway show ( School of Rock ). , experimented with then most modern animation techniques ( Waking Life A Scanner Darkly ) and explored the possibilities of narrative filmmaking with the 12-Years-in-the-Making Childhood . Not to mention that his most famous films – Dazed and Confused Before Trilogy, Boyhood Slacker – all touch themes in the core of Bernadette : the pain and the joy of being young. The melancholy of getting older. The difficulty and necessity of remaining true to others and self in the face of the inevitable disappointment and loss of life.
The stylistic breadth of Linklater's filmography and his ability to observe complex human relationships make him more than qualified to undertake the ambitious task of undergoing thorough literary Where You Go, Bernadette Translation work of the cinema. But sometimes he is challenged by a script (co-written by director Holly Gent and Vincent Palmo Jr.) that smoothes out some of the bumpiest twists in the novel and floods the dark parts of the story with a touch of too much sweetness and light.
Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) and her daughter Bee (the charming newcomer Emma Nelson) have the kind of relationship that many mothers (even if they are not retired ingenious architects) and many daughters (even if they are not a flute) will have to recognize: they have mutual sense of humor, even if they annoy each other. Bernadette is a former architectural star who has long been awarded a MacArthur Genius Scholarship and has not worked since the birth of her daughter. Overwhelmed by the social demands of upper middle-class maternity, she walls up on the family compound, a run-down former girls' school so neglected that blackberries grow through the floorboards.
Although she is warmhearted and affectionate with her family, even many everyday tasks for the anti-social Bernadette are too much to do: she outsources her to a virtual assistant in India, who dictates long, sprawling e-mails to us to point out both their keen intelligence and their chronic depression. But Bernadette keeps taking her daughter away from school, where the other mothers confuse their extreme introversion with snobbery (which, to be honest, often resembles – Bernadette's ranting has to do with the hopeless Seattle province).
In return for completing middle school with a perfect testimonial, Bee persuades her parents to take her on a trip to the Antarctic over the Christmas holidays. Her father Elgin (Billy Crudup) is more than just a break from his high pressure job as a robotics engineer at Microsoft. But Bernadette is so scared about the prospect of talking to other passengers, let alone seasickness, that she's starting to find ways to get out of the journey. Meanwhile, the tension between Bernadette and her close neighbor Audrey (Kristen Wiig) breaks point as they bump into the blackberry plants that begin to invade Audrey's backyard.
In the novel, Bernadette Fox is the missing person about whom the story revolves, a missing person from page 1. In contrast, film Bernadette is almost every minute on the screen. Even though her daughter and her husband have no idea where she is, the audience continues to accompany her independent adventures. This change of focus reduces the tension of the story, especially in the last third of the film, when the forces that separate Bee and her mother are sometimes less fateful than logistical.
The hum of the subplot driving Bee's quest for her mother – including, but not limited to, the movements of a Russian identity stealer and the interpersonal intrigue at a posh private school in Seattle – was reduced to a minimum of paradoxical effect, not history less, but more busy. James Urbaniak turns up briefly as an FBI agent charged with persecuting Bernadette, Laurence Fishburne gets a scene as her former architectural colleague, and Judy Greer comes in while a therapist who visits Elgie discusses what he does is afraid that the woman gets into a mental illness. As the clapping mother of two of Bee's classmates, Wiig and Zoe Chao offer exposure and comic relief, though both characters are freed from the richer arches they receive in the novel. While these initially different storylines intersect and converge, what should feel like neatly orchestrated chaos seems like a narrative mess.
We are used to Cate Blanchett playing bitches, divas and queens – women who are fully in control of their power. It is a fascinating change to see her as an introverted and insecure middle-aged woman who has lost confidence in her ability not only to create but to deal with it. The mystery of the disappearance of Bernadette may be solved too quickly and simply to push the audience to the brink of their seats, but Blanchett's whimsical, spiky performance keeps us in the secret of who Bernadette Fox is, even to herself.
The aspect of the book that Linklater focuses on and that he fills with playfulness and warmth is the complex connection between a flawed but loving mother and her devoted, albeit responsible, child. Just as with Patricia Arquette in Boyhood Linklater sensitively examines the ambivalence of a woman wondering if she has left too much of herself to work as a parent. The credits end with a dedication to Linklater's own mother Diane, who passed away in 2017 and who he movingly identifies as "my Bernadette". Despite all the mistakes of this film, I can not wait to bring my own middle school daughter to see it; It is rare to find a movie about mothers and daughters that neither sentimentalizes nor overly simplifies this too-idealized relationship.