Combustible Celluloid
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With: Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Emma Nelson, Kristen Wiig, James Urbaniak, Judy Greer, Troian Bellisario, Zoë Chao, Laurence Fishburne, Claudia Doumit, Steve Zahn, Megan Mullally, Richard Robichaux, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson
Written by: Richard Linklater, Holly Gent, Vince Palmo, based on the novel by Maria Semple
Directed by: Richard Linklater
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language and drug material
Running Time: 104
Date: 08/15/2019

Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2019)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Intelligent Design

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The downside to Richard Linklater's Where'd You Go, Bernadette is that it doesn't feel like a Richard Linklater film. It feels like a film he might have done for hire, or for a lark. But after that one downside, there's nothing left but upsides. Whereas it lacks Linklater's usual shambling, lackadaisical, rough-at-the-edges touch, his special kind of filmmaking magic collides with a chirpy, neurotic story and meets it in the middle. It feels alive, measured like a heartbeat, not too sluggish and not too high-pitched.

Linklater adapted the screenplay, from Maria Semple's novel, with co-writers Holly Gent and Vince Palmo; they both co-wrote Me and Orson Welles, but have been with Linklater since the near-beginning, both with behind-the-scenes credits on Dazed and Confused. The script is rich like a novel, loaded with layers of details and themes that will be impossible to describe in a short synopsis, but it also moves like a breezy, lightweight comedy, not unlike, say, Linklater's School of Rock.

Cate Blanchette plays Bernadette, a talented architect who has not created anything in the years she has spent raising her teen daughter Bee (Emma Nelson). Meanwhile, Bee coaxes the family to take a trip to Antarctica, which causes Bernadette no end of stress. After many crazy events, including an attack by a scam artist, a landslide, and an intervention, Bernadette decides to disappear, and Bee and her father (Billy Crudup) launch an all-out search for her.

Kristen Wiig is among the supporting cast, great as an annoying super-mom, and James Urbaniak, Judy Greer, and Laurence Fishburne co-star. Steve Zahn appears in an elaborate documentary about Bernadette's architectural career. And damned if Blanchett won't be the person to beat for awards this year. The only words I could form when I walked out of the screening were: "she's so good." Where'd You Go, Bernadette is rich and complex, yet effortless, and it had me laughing, or at least grinning, throughout its entire running time.

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