Does God provide artistic gifts?
Review: Where’d You Go Bernadette
Starring: Cate Blanchette, Billy Crudup, Emma Nelson, Kristen Wiig
People like you must create. That’s what you were brought into this world to do, Bernadette. If you don’t, you become a menace to society.Paul Jellinek
This one is for the artists of the world. This individuals with an innovative mindset that is difficult to explain and can really only be experienced first-hand. This is a group of people who inhabit various spaces from painting to film to architecture. The creative process is subjective for each person and usually incorporates a certain level of messiness. The real beauty of a created work is born out of struggle, misunderstanding and passion. That is the best way to describe Richard Linklater’s visual interpretation of Maria Semple’s best-selling novel.
As the title suggests, the central character is the reclusive and occasionally combative Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett). She is a retired architect who lives in Seattle with her tech-genius husband Elgin (Billy Crudup)and their 15-year-old daughter Balakrishna “Bee”(Emma Nelson). They reside atop a hill that overlooks their neighbourhood in a former boarding school that is in exceptional disrepair. This massive money pit that conveys a message of the internal struggle of their family life and the unwelcome nature of Bernadette’s outward demeanour towards her neighbours. The only thing that seems to bring any light into Bernadette’s life is her relationship with Bee. So, when the Fox’s daughter asks for a trip to Antarctica as her birthday gift, it surprises both parents that they agree to the extravagant request.
In the process of preparing for the adventure to the South Pole, Bernadette begins to order the necessary equipment and medications to assist with the journey. She also has to address the issues that she has with her closest neighbour, Audrey Griffin (Kristen Wiig). She inhabits the house next to the Foxes and is an overbearing woman who wants to remove raspberry bushes that border their properties. Along with the other goal of involving her neighbours in more school activities. It is when the stresses of domestic life, her choice of an overseas assistant and the past she is running from manage to collide that Bernadette decides to disappear. Where’d she go?
This real-life fantasy can only be reimagined in the hands of a true creative. Richard Linklater has always managed to remain on the fringe of the artistic process when he makes his films. From his Before Sunrise trilogy to the decade’s long process of filming Boyhood, he has always done the projects that creatively resonate with him. Which seems to make him an ideal candidate for directing this quirky and disjointed tale of an agoraphobic architect, but it might be hard for some audiences to digest.
Even though Cate Blanchett is in almost every scene, it takes two acts for us to really know the character she plays. This becomes a non-linear journey through her mental state and the complex relationships of her life. An aspect of this film that may lead to impatience and confusion for many viewers, but one that may prove to be worth waiting for in the end. It is this arduous process that moves her from a one-dimensional nut case to a fascinating, multi-layered and relatable woman. One who has been seeking her release from her self-imposed prison of the mind.
This whole affair travels across the lines of exasperation and enlightenment. Two words that seem to define the life and mind of the artist, especially of the woman depicted on screen. Her choice to run away becomes a nonsensical and entitled journey for a person who sits outside of the realm of appealing to others. Proving that she is a talented woman who represents the unexplainable components of an innovative spirit. Something that will be understood by all of those who are drawn to and love this personality type.
Ultimately, this film is made by and for those who are willing to embrace their inner artist. Or merely those who want to celebrate the creatives they adore. Linklater’s interpretation of this novel proves to be an exceptionally unique cinematic ordeal. The innovative director’s interpretation becomes an imaginative excursion that is knitted together into something that is disjointed, ridiculous and strangely satisfying. This obscure description can only truly be understood by those who live in this world of vision and measured madness. Where’d You Go Bernadette is for you.
Spoiler alert: Bernadette Fox is eventually outed as being one of the greatest architectural minds of her generation. Her apparent madness proves to be a suppression of her need to create. It is a gift that plagues many in society and few get to honestly share with the world.
What is it about mankind that desires to create? Music, paintings, buildings, film or any other art form, there seems to be something that drives the innovator. Some may even look at the creation of this world and find inspiration. Bernadette did strive to use the beauty of the land and humanity to complement her works.
Could this unexplainable drive to create be credited to a creator God? One that not only provides the gifts to create, but proves that He too is a creative himself. The Artist of artists. Which is a fascinating notion worth pondering when you look upon that work of art in your home, city or museum.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalms 19:1