Richard Linklater directed this?
Yes, the same person who brought us “Boyhood,” “Before Sunrise” and “Everybody Wants Some!!” has turned “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” — Maria Semple’s popular, funny, satirical novel — into common family schmaltz. His usual ability to balance warm and weird has apparently gone on summer break.
Bernadette (Cate Blanchett) is an eccentric woman who looks like Edna Mode from “The Incredibles” and speaks in cruel, overly witty quips. She lives as a semi-recluse in a dilapidated house on an overgrown hill in Seattle with her software developer husband (Billy Crudup) and precocious teen daughter Bee (Emma Nelson). Everybody hates Bernadette, but she DGAF.
She mocks the prim and proper neighborhood women (Kristen Wiig plays one) as “gnats,” and she has an internet personal assistant in India whom she uses to avoid in-person interactions. There are some awkward one-liners about her Indian email pen pal, such as “You bet your bindi!”
After Bee begs for a family trip to Antarctica, and the parents relent, Bernadette’s already-mad life plunges further into crazytown. Her hubby starts to hate her and, in a silly scene, the FBI gets involved. More intriguing, though, are the glimpses into her past existence as a prominent architect and her steady descent into paranoia and anxiety.
Blanchett, while highly watchable, is a living, breathing Looney Tune here. Rare is the role that sees her exhibit any observably human characteristics anymore, and batty Berny is no different. The actress makes the character so huge, you half expect her to start yelling, “Fee, fi, fo, fum!”
The enormity of this person is hammered home in the final third of the movie, which features a family journey in which the plot goes from cutesy to spineless. Crudup and Nelson try their darndest, but the teary moments, powerful-ish messages and sardonic humor go together like cheesecake and ketchup.
Linklater, a director who usually earns his sentiment, just can’t get the tone right. “Bernadette” is supposed to skewer the norms of family, suburban life and motherhood. While Bernadette should be a creature out of Wes Anderson, Blanchett and her director opt for “The Addams Family” instead. Nothing about it works.
Where will “Bernadette” go? Probably the Target bargain bin.