Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Cate Blanchett in Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is based on a novel I really enjoyed by Maria Semple. It’s impossible to have loved the novel and not be annoyed by the film.

The saucy tone of the novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette was lost, and many of the story details were changed. The writers should have been exclusively female and the director should have been a woman, not Richard Linklater.

So I’m going to pretend I don’t know anything about the novel and try to review the movie as a standalone.

The cast was fantastic. Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett), an award winning architect who hadn’t worked for 20 years, was the title character.

Billy Crudup in Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Bernadette lived in a moldering mansion in Seattle with her Microsoft genius husband Elgie (Billy Crudup) and her teen daughter Bee (Emma Nelson).

the moldering mansion

The crumbling, rain infested, dwelling this brilliant architect lived in with her family was the perfect metaphor for her life. It was drooping with entropy and no spark of life was being poured into it to salvage it.

The neighbor (Kristen Wiig) was her worst enemy because of the blackberry brambles taking over her property, and because Bernadette didn’t fit in with the other mothers at school.

Emma Nelson in Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Bee asked to go to Antarctica over Christmas vacation and the family agreed. Bernadette didn’t really intend to go because she was anxious about absolutely everything. She used a virtual assistant in India to do the most mundane of daily chores for her. Her mental health issues were not described well. In fact, Bernadette as a whole was glossed over with little understanding.

Elgie was informed by an FBI agent (James Urbaniak) that the virtual assistant was a Russian scammer, collecting personal info. Bernadette was spiraling out of control.

Elgie, with the encouragement of a shrink (Judy Greer) and his assistant (Zoe Chao), staged an intervention. Elgie wanted to get Bernadette to spend a month getting mental health care while he took Bee to Antarctica.

Cate Blanchett in Where'd You Go, Bernadette

That’s not how it worked out.

Everyone eventually ended up in Antarctica, a place that woke Bernadette from her creative doldrums. The ending was highly unlikely but fun.

A few more members of the cast who count as part of the great cast I bragged about include Megan Mullally, Laurence Fishburne, Steve Zahn, Troian Bellasario, and Kate Burton.

If you can forget how good this movie should have been and just go with what is, it’s enjoyable and light. It’s crammed with brilliant actors who are always a pleasure to watch. I wanted to see it in spite of all the bad reviews it had when it came out in 2016. I’m glad I did.

You can find it streaming on Hulu and a few other places.

Poster for Where'd You Go, Bernadette

In case you’ve never seen the trailer.

What did you think of the movie?

2 thoughts on “Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette”

  1. christopher a swaby

    i knew nothing about a book being the basis of the film – i will now have to read it – so i took the film at face value. i enjoyed it quite a bit. i love the actors and loved the story. i didnt see much of the Seattle in which i live in the film but other than that, i had no complaints. this is a film i would watch again.

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