Where’d You Go, Bernadette? A better question is why should anyone care where Bernadette goes? Richard Linklater adapts Maria Semple’s bestseller, making several changes to the novel that don’t serve either the heroine or star Cate Blanchett well. Already a portrait of a family of enormous privilege—who the hell else can afford to take (on only a month’s notice, yet) a vacation to Antarctica—it adds to it an entitled protagonist whose main character trait is pissing people off.
In a way, Bernadette Fox hews close to the template of a difficult, self-involved woman with a talent for alienating people that Blanchett established in her Oscar-winning turn in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. But Bernadette lacks Jasmine’s vulnerability and she’s meaner. She lavishes what tenderness she has on young teen daughter Bee (Emma Nelson) and, to a lesser extent, husband Elgie (Billy Crudup). For the rest of the human population, this embittered architect (a MacArthur genius grant winner, at that) turned stay-at-home mom has nothing but scorn, lavishing particular venom and outright cruelty on her neighbor, Audrey (Kristen Wiig). It is her behavior toward Audrey that at last pushes Elgie into arranging an intervention, which inspires Bernadette to run away from her family.
All roads eventually lead to Antarctica where, at last, Bernadette’s back story and just why she is so acrimonious comes into focus. Too little, too late in terms of having any empathy for the character or caring about what becomes of her. At least the location (apparently really Greenland) is pretty. Shots of Blanchette kayaking among icebergs that open the film and recur later are gorgeous. But the satire falls flat and Bernadette never gives anyone besides her beloved Bee reason to spend time with her. –Pam Grady