That’s my review of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.
Maybe that’s not it:
Affably-breezy, breezily-affable adult relationship dramedies with a glossy studio sheen that gesture at complexity without letting such matters weigh down the tone are so rare nowadays that it might make Where’d You Go, Bernadette recommendable enough on its own. But in cinematic terms, Blanchett’s the primary — perhaps the only? — gesturer. Add to that some mince-meat-making deliveries of seemingly-throwaway lines, and she yet again defends her crown as the world’s greatest living thespian.
Besides her, the book deserves a bulk of the credit for what else is successful about the movie. I’d be curious to see how much changed between the first draft of the script to the first cut to what’s in theaters right now, because it feels like a crude amalgamation of incohesive takes on the source material, all over the place in a way that’s common for adaptations that fail to translate what worked over hundreds of pages into a two-hour affair.
The ultimate hallmark of which: inconsistency — of tone, of pace of action, and in regards to how it explores its ideas (including which it chooses to focus on). The character arcs are unconvincingly developed from beat to beat, and some beats are nowhere to be found. Also missing: pieces of the overall narrative, and yet we spend too much time on matters that ultimately prove insignificant. This inconsistency had the potential to be a thematically-resonant reflection of Bernadette’s inability to find stable ground in her unmoored existence, but it seems like a product of failed execution, not intentional artistry. As such, we’re merely left with threads of what could’ve been.
Richard Linklater was probably aiming for a beach-read accessible aesthetic, AKA the aforementioned dramedy genre. But as much as I miss such fare, if it’s pitching right down the middle, then it damn well better hit a home run; even a triple won’t cut it (mixed metaphor, player position edition!).
But you know
what who the book doesn’t have?
Cate Fucking Blanchett.
So, you know, that’s something, right?
Here’s another something: a post-2001 Richard Linklater power ranking (which would be a 21st century ranking…if I had seen his 2001 output. I know, I know! For shame!), a list that stands toe-to-toe with anyone else’s — ANYONE’S — over the same period:
- Before Sunset/Midnight
- A Scanner Darkly
- Everybody Wants Some!!
- Last Flag Flying
- School of Rock
- Me and Orson Welles
- Fast Food Nation
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette
- Bad News Bears
Blanchett would’ve been the obvious fodder to be given the power-rank treatment here, but it’s hard to compare quality of performances; they’re often hamstrung by elements outside of their control.