By DAVID LEE ZAMORA
Special to the Parade
Where’d You Go, Bernadette, based on the novel by Maria Semple, follows Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett), a famed architect turned stay-at-home mother who finds any human interaction with anybody outside of her family challenging and stressful. All this builds up on the family, eventually leading to her running away and eventually finding herself.
Let me start off by saying, “wow.” I was extremely surprised by this film’s ability to make me really feel for this nuclear family. From Bernadette’s strange, unjustified hostility towards her neighbor Audrey (Kristen Wiig), and her inability to handle people like a fan asking for a photograph, to her husband Elgie Branch’s (Billy Crudup) long work hours getting in the way of his family, constantly trying to get Bernadette help for her agoraphobia which, for whatever reason, is only mentioned in the book, but not the movie. These scenes hit close to home, and I can come close to understanding what Bernadette and her daughter are dealing with. All this is lost in the film’s third act, where Bernadette runs away to find herself, making Elgie and Bee (Emma Nelson), their daughter, mend their fractured relationships while looking for Bernadette.
The acting in this film was in my opinion really good. Blanchett shows Bernadette’s inability to confront her past and her subsequent seclusion from the world. A great example is the scene I mentioned previously, where a fan asks Bernadette for a photograph, making Bernadette freeze in fear, unable to say a word and only able to nod and shake her head. To some in the theater, it was a funny moment, but it made me anxious: you can see how scared she is that someone even spoke to her, and who knew her past from watching a documentary on Bernadette’s life. I can remember my stomach churning, and how I started to feel her anxiety rush through me.
Crudup really played the tired, disinterested father so well. At times his acting felt stiff but, looking back, it really makes sense why: he’s finding it so hard to cope with his wife’s troubling behavior. This acting is great until. again, the third act, where the disinterest seems off: his wife just ran away, yet he seems calm, and once he and Bee start looking for Bernadette, his attitude seems to change every other scene. One minute, he couldn’t care less, then he wants to find her, then he thinks she’s dead, and then excited again. Nelson’s portrayal of Bee is at it’s best when she stands up for her mother. Bee’s relationship with Bernadette is very strong, but she is distant with Elgie. her father. In all, Blanchett leads this film, and makes the first and second act wonderful. In the third act, Bernadette jumps from her home’s window and disappears, thus starting the “mystery” of where Bernadette went. I say “mystery” because it’s not a mystery at all: the film follows Bernadette and what’s she’s doing the entire time. I was looking forward to the film shifting its focus to Bernadette’s daughter and husband, potentially seeing their relationship mend. Fortunately, that does happen but really fast, making the ending feel somewhat unfulfilling.