Friday Flicks: Where'd You Go, Bernadette

If it feels like it has been a long time since I last did a Friday Flicks review, that's because it has been. I've always been a fan of going to see a movie in the theater, but movie theaters have become another on the long list of casualties of COVID-19. Streaming services provide a plethora of content, but something about curling up on the couch with a bowl of microwave popcorn just isn't the same. Still, I'd be lying if I said I haven't enjoyed all the extra time catching up on movies that I missed in the theater. One recent offering is Where'd You Go, Bernadette, an adaptation of Maria Semple's popular novel of the same name. With an all-star cast and helmed by acclaimed director Richard Linklater, I knew the movie had the potential to be a worthy version of the bestselling book.

Cate Blanchett stars as the titular Bernadette, a quirky and creative former architect who traded the art world for the suburban life as a mother. Her husband Elgin, played by Billy Crudup, is a genius in his own right, heading up an innovative arm of a large technology company. While Elgin works, Bernadette is responsible for the majority of the activities that come with raising their fifteen-year-old daughter Bee. Bernadette is far from a conventional mother. She largely stays in the family's dilapidated estate and relies upon a personal assistant in India to take care of any shopping or planning needs. Her use of assistant Manjula takes on new heights as Bernadette prepares for a trip to Antarctica that was promised to Bee. She is extremely apprehensive about this trip, but her love for her daughter outweighs her anxiety.

The nuclear family of Elgin, Bernadette, and Bee seems to function just fine. The threesome is perfectly content with their unconventional way of life, but their neighbors have other ideas about the peculiar family. Kristen Wig gives a scene-stealing performance as Bernadette's neighbor and arch-nemesis Audrey Griffin. Audrey is essentially the antithesis to everything Bernadette is. Audrey and the other neighbors begin to pressure Elgin to react to Bernadettes idiosyncrasies. Elgin has to admit that things are starting to get out of hand. Things come to a head when Elgin attempts to stage an intervention with both a doctor and an FBI agent. Bernadette flees the scene, leaving Elgin and Bee to try to piece together the pieces of Bernadette's life, find her, and bring her back home.

I had every intention of seeing this film in theaters late last summer. Negative reviews and a poor showing at the box office meant that it only played in most cinemas for a couple of weeks. Thankfully, I was able to find it on Hulu. After watching it for myself, I really don't understand the negative reaction. I found Where'd You Go, Bernadette to be a pretty faithful adaptation of the novel. I even had a stronger emotional connection to the characters in the film than I did in the book. Blanchett relishes in all of the quirks of her character while never taking her too far away from Bernadette's emotional core. The film provides a more nuanced approach to the novel's themes of balancing personal and professional obligations while navigating the delicate complexities of family relationships. This is something that I was really missing when I read the novel, so I was happy to see Linklater explore it more in the film. There's nothing flashy or showy about this movie, which is why I think it was overshadowed at the summer box office. Instead, Where'd You Go, Bernadette is an intimate character study grounded by stellar performances, the kind of film that will leave you dazzled by the emotional connection you feel through the entire time you watch it.

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24 Responses to “Friday Flicks: Where'd You Go, Bernadette”

  1. Interesting that you were even more connected to the characters in the movie than the book. That says a lot about the acting and the way the story was adapted. I haven't seen Billy Crudup in ages and I didn't realize he was in this one.

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    1. Billy Crudup was fantastic! He's also really great in The Morning Show with Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, if you haven't watched that one yet.

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  2. I was surprised by the negative reviews, because I loved this book, and therefore, knew the source material was solid. I am happy to hear it was a good adaptation.

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    1. I think I'd even give the movie a bit of an edge over the book!

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  3. Hmm, I think you added a movie to my watch list, Ethan. :) Great review- and, agreed- couch watching is not the same. I keep chirping about drive-ins to become a thing again and get eyerolls.

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    1. The only thing that would have me hesitant about a drive in right now is the hot Texas heat!

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  4. I love that you were connected to the characters more so in the movie. Sometimes an audiobook will do that to me. It's that enhancement of voice that elevates the characters.

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    1. I definitely find that audiobooks help me with that connection too. If I'm struggling to read a physical copy, I always try the audio version before giving up on it.

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  5. I never saw this in the theaters; it came and went too fast and I missed it. Then I forgot about it. But I did like the book. Glad to know you enjoyed the movie version, too. :)

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    1. If you liked the book, I think the movie is well worth a watch.

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  6. I really liked the book, the movie not so much :(

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    1. Sorry to hear you didn't like the movie. I think some of these characters are inherently divisive.

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  7. I don't go to theatres to watch movies, I wait until they're out On Demand and then watch them but I usually only watch Horror, Adventure and Drama. I haven't heard of this movie.

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  8. I haven't been to the movies in a long time, even before covid I'd rather watch them at home. I didn't read the book, but I'm happy to hear the adaptation was good, because so many times the book is better! It sounds like an interesting story, one I might enjoy!

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    1. It is worth a watch if you can get access to it.

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  9. I didn't realise this was a book -- I think it sounds like the right kind of quirky that can be engrossing in a movie. And also Cate Blanchett <3

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    1. I thought it was a really good version of the story the book told. That's all you can really ask for in an adaptation like this.

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  10. Interesting take. I love Blanchette and wanted to see the movie but also heard the horrible reviews. I haven't read the book though so I don't have anything to compare it to and would probably enjoy it.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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  11. I need to give this one a watch.

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  12. Some of our movie theaters are open, showing old films like Back to the Future, The Goonies, etc. We've been tempted to go, just to do something different (funny that going to a movie is considered a unique thing to do right now), but just thinking about sitting in a germy theater right now gives me the heebie-jeebies! I can wait ...

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    1. I'm in the same boat here. I love the idea of going to see some of the classic movies that will be playing, but I'm not sure I feel comfortable with goin just yet.

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