Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Somehow I missed its initial cinema run, but tried to go see it, three times failing. Then I looked for it online, and forgot to buy it, as something else caught my eye. Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2019) became for me that kind of film you really want to watch, and then you just don’t. A dark horse. With Richard Linklater directing and Cate Blanchett staring (plus Billy Crudup as hubby!), what could possibly go wrong?

Finally it arrived in my HBO package, and I watched it (but not immediately), and very soon understood that it’s that kind of story that waits for you at a crossroads, innocently, like the devil, ready when you are. A charming bourgeois Gen X candyfloss of a tale, full of tense family trips to Antarctica, sweet and sinister gadgets as plot twists (it’s the Russians, obviously), quirky antisocial genius architects wed to Microsoft geniuses, globalisation initiatives by Seattle soccer moms, etc. Pastel, cashmere, handwoven, well-spoken, First World problems. I did not expect a rough ride.

But Bernadette has a broken heart. In more ways than one. It speaks of what happens when wild talent and a seemingly ceaseless flow of creativity become stifled and tamed by a tremendous fear of failure, and obsessive streak a mile wide, and a sense of responsibility that is overwhelming, especially in a woman who gives birth to a child who needs all the care it can receive. And it does (with Emma Nelson as seriously lovely daughter Bee).

This is a love that knows no bounds, making it imperative for Blanchett as Bernadette, the wonder woman architect, to overcome the seemingly selfish impulse to sculpt something out of thin air. A decision to sacrifice one’s gift as penance (or an offering) makes pure killjoys of soulful folk, the one’s who are born to be inspired by each moment in time. As their job.

It turned out to be a moving actor’s portrait of an artist’s real anguish hidden and gift-wrapped within a Gap ad that is Bernadette‘s scenery and style. Cate B. shines wherever she lands. Fun performances all around, besides, particularly by Kristen Wiig, as Audrey, the busybody frenemy neighbour. All that, plus a witty, ace script, based on a novel of the same name, by Maria Semple. And an almost Blanche Dubois exit, towards the end. A fate narrowly, happily averted. All Linklater’s stories end well.

Still, in RL, it probably would’ve gone dark. Good to know.

★★★✩✩

Author: © Milana Vujkov

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