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Home / Entertainment / Where did you go? Bernadette is a rare misstep by Richard Linklater

Where did you go? Bernadette is a rare misstep by Richard Linklater



Photo: Annapurna Pictures “/>

C

C

Director [19659006] Richard Linklater

Actor

Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Emma Nelson, Zoe Chao, Kristen Wiig, Laurence Fishburne and Judy Greer

Availability

Theater Everywhere August 16

Maria Semples You Go, Bernadette is a clever novel full of well-drawn characters driven by a compelling puzzle that suggests it could become a powerful movie. But the entertaining value of the book does an impressive job that veils its logistical challenge for anyone who wants to customize it for the screen: a partial epistolary approach that offers multiple perspectives and in some cases more psychology and gossip than action. Although the material does not have much to do with the work of Steven Soderbergh, he is a filmmaker who takes the opportunity to face up to these challenges – and perhaps feel a kinship with the character of Bernadette, who sees himself as one known personality called "Great Problem Solver".

Richard Linklater, the director / co-author who created a film version of Bernadette is not exactly a big problem solver. Unlike the ambitious and sometimes aspiring architect Bernadette (Cate Blanchett), he is mildly curious and makes movies more spirited for Bernadette's brilliant but quietly spoken husband, Elgin (Billy Crudup). Linklater has Soderbergh's experimental curiosity, but a more relaxed, spontaneous method. That does not necessarily make him wrong for this customization. For a while, it even feels like an inspired choice to navigate in the complicated family dynamics of Bernadette, Elgin, and her teenage daughter Bee (Emma Nelson).

The trio have found their home in Seattle and are a fixer-upper of A House that Bernadette never finished. She was once an architect of great renown, but reluctantly joined the parental dispute over Bee's private school and managed her life through an invisible personal assistant named Manjula. Bee accepts the prickliness of her mother (who never turns to her beloved daughter) and is happy to assist her if, for example, a fussy neighbor and another mother like Audrey (Kristen Wiig) extrapolate carelessness and feuds from Bernadette's irritated indifference (which) as in the book, may not be as devastatingly funny as the text seems to think). Linklater struggles with many background and character details and finds some clever solutions, such as an online video explaining Bernadette's greatest professional triumph (and associated devastation). And Blanchett is ideally cast as someone who is both "challenged in the art of basic interaction" and secretly aware of their limitations. Even if she threatens to be affected with Wiig, Linklater's stubborn refusal to indulge in caricatures keeps the characters on the floor.

Elgin, who willingly put his own genius into a job at Microsoft, worries about Bernadette's mental state, especially when she (reluctantly) agrees with Bee's long-standing request for a family trip to the Antarctic. Here comes the story to its most important turning point: Bernadette, under social and family pressure, leaves quickly and mysteriously, leaving her husband and daughter confused. At this point, Linklater and his co-authors (or perhaps Linklater and his longtime editor Sandra Adair) make a decisive change to the book, not in the plot, but how it goes on. Without getting into the spoiler field, suffice it to say that this version throws overboard most of the obsessive speculative and detective work that resulted in Bernadette's disappearance in the novel – a catastrophic change that tastes limited in damage.

Photo: Annapurna Pictures An ineffective solution to the interior of the material makes the film version of Bernadette even more disappointing to those who have not read the book. At least readers will understand why this story even exists. But even in the more successful first half of the film, there are signs that Linklater has not cracked the work as a whole. Certain details of the plot are presented true to the original, but do not escalate. This reduces both the comic energy and the dramatic tension of the film. A crucial scene is an accidental mudslide that destroys a fancy charity party for Bee's private school, and Linklater seems to have no idea how to stage it. Should it be considered a satisfactory revenge for the self-satisfied private mothers? Comic destruction that goes too far? A real disaster? Linklater chooses none of the above options and cuts off the scene instead of imposing any kind of sound on it.
Bernadette a film about the struggle of the upper middle class, seems determined to avoid any really unpleasant confrontation. (Some messier details from the book are scrubbed away.) Maybe it's Linklater's empathy that's so crucial to his work and triggers it. In his honor, it probably would have been easy to turn this book into a quasi-satirical parade of Takedown's decay. It was probably much more work to turn it into a tasteless, centerless journey of self-discovery. That does not make watching easier.


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