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Review: 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette' an aimless journey

Cate Blanchett stars in Richard Linklater's messy adaptation of the hit novel

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

A movie that goes to the end of the Earth to find itself and still comes up empty handed, "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" is a colossal misfire for director Richard Linklater. 

Twenty films into his groundbreaking career, Linklater has earned the mulligan. But this head-scratcher about depression, alienation, the environment and the search for creative inspiration is like a car without wheels being pushed uphill. It goes nowhere, slowly.     

Cate Blanchett in "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?"

Cate Blanchett is Bernadette Fox, a former star architect who dropped out of the public eye after completing an acclaimed project in Los Angeles. Twenty years later, she now lives in an oversize home atop a hill in Seattle with her husband Elgin (Billy Crudup) and her daughter Bee (Emma Nelson), and her lone communications with the outside world are petty squabbles with her neighbors and long, winding confessions to her digital assistant. 

Linklater, who co-wrote the script based on Maria Semple's 2012 novel, fills us in on Bernadette's backstory using footage from a documentary about her work, which he parses out in painfully small doses. At the same time, Bernadette is planning a trip to Antarctica with Elgin and Bee, because what a movie that doesn't know what it is or where it's headed really needs is a trip to Antarctica. 

The Arctic journey at least allows for some splendid-looking scenery, but otherwise "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" is baffling in its lack of coherence and direction. Blanchett never gets a grip on her character and whether she's supposed to be a tragic burnout or a dormant flame looking to reignite. "Where'd you go?" is a fitting question for all parties involved. 

'Where'd You Go, Bernadette'


Rated PG-13: for some strong language and drug material 

Running time: 110 minutes