Certain directors have such a unique style - Wes Anderson, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, Terrence Malick even Zack Snyder and Michael Bay - that we know what to expect when we watch one of their films. However, this comes at a price: when they try to do something new or on a more "mediocre" scale, they can get ripped apart by the masses. While today's director, Richard Linklater, has tapped into many different genres and styles over the years, there is a certain calibre that comes with his name.
Bernadette (Cate Blanchett, 'Thor: Ragnarok', 'Ocean's 8') is a very wealthy architect who, while retried, still keeps that part of her life alive. She lives in Seattle with her also successful husband Elgie (Billy Crudup, 'Jackie', 'Spotlight') and their daughter Bee (Emma Nelson), who is extremely smart and wants to go on a trip to Antarctica before heading to boarding school. However, Bernadette isn't as calm and collected as she seems, not only having personal troubles but also butting heads with neighbour Audrey (Kristen Wiig, 'Mother!', 'Downsizing'), among others. When her past catches up to her, she leaves without a trace - where did she go?
For me, the biggest problem with the film is the title. This is not a mystery film, and the question of where she does go is answered as soon as she leaves. It's also not what the film is about - we don't really have people looking for her and when they do, we the audience already know where she is, so there is no real stake in the so-called mystery element. The "where did she go" arc is the shift from act 2 to 3, while the marketing and title make you believe that there will be clues a la 'Gone Girl' or even 'A Simple Favour', but that's not what this is. Really, it's just your basic kind of family drama. Bernadette had some sort of falling out in her architect days, along with unresolved mental health issues that make her relationships with her family and people in her community difficult and in need of fixing. She's a bit cold and closed off, while also almost at her tipping point - and that's where the drama lies.
This is not a mystery film, and the question of where she does go is answered as soon as she leaves. It's also not what the film is about - we don't really have people looking for her, so there is no real stake in the so-called mystery element.
Now, lucky for me, I didn't take in too much of the marketing besides the title, so as the movie was revealing what it was actually about, it didn't really bug me. Having said that, the film is fine, just your typical August/September film release that the studio dumps out with star power to make a quick buck and you watch to just kill a few hours and not because you're interested.
Having Linklater and Blanchett team up you do expect more, but there have been many worse actor/director team-ups, and while not a home run, this one is not an outright disappointment. Blanchett is still giving a fantastic performance, and Kristen Wigg still surprises me as she does less and less comedic roles.
'Where'd You Go Bernadette' is missing Linklater's usual loosely-structured narrative and character study, and is one of his most mainstream "studio" films, but the film does its job of being enjoyable background noise that thanks to its cast and somewhat engaging story.