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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jun 20, 2021



TWO-TIME OSCAR winner Cate Blanchett is a delight to watch in the engaging offbeat comedy-drama, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” directed by Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”, “Before Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight” series) based on the hit novel by Maria Semple. 

Cate plays Bernadette Fox, a woman who seems to enjoy a beautiful life with her caring husband Elgie (Billy Crudup), a technical genius at Microsoft, and their smart daughter Bee (Emma Nelson) in their huge old mansion in Seattle. 

She is somewhat like a recluse, afraid of interacting with other people, even with their next door neighbor, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), but she is very close to her daughter.

It’s obvious she has serious psychological problems. She has trouble sleeping. 

She declares: “Anxiety causes insomnia and insomnia causes anxiety.” So she stores various drugs in a very big jar to control her feelings of anxiety. 

She spites her neighbor Audrey by causing the hillside on her lot to collapse on Audrey’s garden and home during a heavy rain. 

When Audrey approaches her to talk to her, she runs off in her car, running over Audrey’s foot.

Instead of interacting with people, she asks everything she needs online from an Indian woman named Manjula, who has become some sort of a crutch for her. 

Bee requests her mom and dad to take her on a cruise to Antartica as a family as she got very high grades in school. 

Bernadette agrees reluctantly but she actually dreads leaving to be with strangers in a ship and her behavior gets worse as the day of their cruise approaches.

Elgie refers her to a psychiatrist, Dr. Kurtz (Judy Greer), as it’s obvious she is so distressed, but just won’t admit it. 

An FBI agent also informs them that they have been scammed since Manjula is actually a front of a Russian online crime syndicate that gets all their family’s information from Bernadette and has already started defrauding and swindling them. 

Bernadette is remorseful but Elgie tells her that he and Bee will still go take the Antartica Cruise, but she will have to stay with Dr. Kurtz in a facility for treatment of her mental illness while they are away. 

She is horrified with the idea of getting outside intervention, so she runs away and goes missing. Elgie and Bee search for her, hence, the film’s title.

Actually, though, the title refers not only to Bernadette being lost physically, but more so, psychologically. It is revealed that she used to be a hotshot architect in Los Angeles who has won awards for her environment friendly designs and is considered to have a bright future in her field. 

But something goes terribly wrong and the setback makes her decide to leave her career and L.A. to hibernate instead in Seattle.

The film aims to show what happens when a genius and talented person loses her passion and her creativity gets stifled. 

Elgie realizes this and he also realizes that he did not at all support his gifted wife while she is undergoing a personal and emotional crisis so, in a sense, he has failed her as a concerned husband.

The film is very beautifully shot, with the scenes filmed in the pristine landscape of Antartica truly awe inspiring. 

But even more awesome is Cate’s masterful and perfectly nuanced portrayal of the title role, which gives her the chance to show the full scope of her range and total control of her emotions as an actress. 

Even when you know she is indeed having an emotional breakdown but is in denial, we continue to care for her and root for her. 

We pray that Bernadette will get to confront her past traumas, still get to reignite her creative drive and get her back on the road to sanity. Cate is so good when she delivers her lengthy manic tirades in defense of herself with so much misdirected energy. 

It actually takes a while before we are told about Bernadette’s previous personal triumph as a top architect, revealed in a neat expository device of a video showing her past creative achievements. 

The film shows that as individuals and as artists, we are all works in progress. And once the work is stalled, disaster that inadvertently affects the people around us ensues. 

As one character in the film says” “Creators who don’t get to create become a menace to society”.

Character study films about midlife crisis usually revolve on men (“Sideways”, “City Slickers”, “Manhattan”, “American Beauty”,  “About Schmidt”, “The Beaver”) so it’s nice to see one that focuses on the intricate interior realities of an aging woman who is grappling with personal, family and career problems that are intertwined with each other. 

The irony of Bernadette is that when she goes missing and considered lost, that’s when she actually finds herself and her true calling. 

Women, specially moms, who sacrifice their own dreams for their loved ones, without even realizing what they’re doing, will be able to easily relate with Bernadette.

Cate is ably supported by Emma Nelson as the adorable and precocious Bee. Their heartwarming mother-daughter connection is  poignant and serves as the movie’s beating heart. 

Their duet of the song “Time After Time” while inside the car is quite precious. 

Also good is Kristen Wiig as the mean girl neighbor who’s so critical of Bernadette but is not aware of her problems with her own teenage son. 

Billy Crudup also excels as the suffering husband who cares for his wife and yet cannot figure out how to help her navigate her own life.