The photography of ice bergs in Antarctica and Cate Blanchet may be the only reasons to see the Maria Semple novel put to screen. Likewise, the movie was enjoyable only in that it reminded me of the pleasure I had in reading ” Where’d You Go, Bernadette.” Director Richard Linklater missed most of the social satire that I found “laugh out loud” funny in the book. Some of this may have been because much of the novel entails memos, e-mails, blog entries, and blue-tooth phone conversations. These are hard to incorporate with a narrator daughter and the use of flashbacks. Present and past get emotionally distorted.
Blanchet is a cooler batty than the Bernadette Fox of the novel. Yet, the subjects of women adrift in the pressures of family and workplace are touched, as is the need for creative endeavors. Her “genius grant” 20 mile house has been demolished for a parking lot. This event has kicked her to the curb.
Bernadette is not a people person. Having once been an esteemed, prize-winning architect, we now find her housed in an unkempt Victorian where she breaks stained-glass windows to rescue the family lab ( cutely, named Ice Cream) from a stuck closet. She cuts their carpet in star-shaped-flaps and staples them to see if the floor is wet from the constantly dripping ceiling. She is an eccentric insomniac. She pours all her depression meds. in a jar like jelly beans for the taking. “Colorful, but hard to remember what is what!” Her psychiatrist, hired by Bernadette’s husband ( Billy Crudup ), tries a psychological intervention once it appears that Bernadette has enabled a scammer in stealing her identity. ” We’d like to present you with the reality of your situation”, she announces. Bernadette’s former colleague, Paul, ( Laurence Fishburne ) does a much better job at quelling Bernadette’s ” irrational chain of anxiety”, he listens.
Blanchet is fun to watch in her marabis with turquoise toes and her Hermès scarves. She naturally absorbs Bernadette’s wit in berating her neighbor , Audrey, ( Kirsten Wiig ) for using the word ” connectitude”. ” Audrey went to a grad school that ” thinks outside the dictionary”.
Bernadette’s identity crisis may begin with a literal mud slide of instability, but her daughter Bee ( Emma Nelson ) does not drift, as her husband does in the book. Daughter and husband present Bernadette with the namesake locket of her visionary saint, and her world is no longer mad.