Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 24, 2019)
Based on Maria Semple’s 2012 novel, 2019’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette introduces us to the title character, Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett). A stay-at-home mom, she lives with husband Elgin Branch (Billy Crudup) and daughter Bee (Emma Nelson).
In her younger days, Bernadette enjoyed a promising career as an architect. However, she put that on hold for decades and retreated from society.
After years of self-neglect, Bernadette rebels and decides to put herself first. This leads her on a journey of self-exploration and discovery.
Every year we get a few movies that fail to live up to their pedigree. These involve notable talent on both sides of the camera but they don’t match with expectations.
While not alone, Go gets one of these “prizes” for 2019. With much-lauded director Richard Linklater behind the camera and a cast of Blanchett, Crudup, Laurence Fishburne, Kristen Wiig, Megan Mullally, David Paymer, Steve Zahn and Judy Greer in front of it, this looked like a slam-dunk.
Because I never read Semple’s book, I can’t say how many of the movie’s problems stem from the source. However, I don’t tend to blame novelists for cinematic issues.
Whatever pros/cons a root text may offer, the filmmakers need to make it their own. Being faithful to a flawed source doesn’t seem like a satisfactory excuse.
That makes this Linklater’s baby, and he creates a pretty awful tale. While I don’t always like Linklater’s movies, I know he boasts talent, and Go feels like something made from a vastly inferior filmmaker.
Nothing here echoes the humanity in Linklater’s better works, especially due to the whimsical tone so much of Go adopts. Much of the time, the film feels like a random collection of cutesy scenes in search of a purpose.
None of these connect, and the awful story telling doesn’t help. At times, Go grinds to a halt to deliver clumsy exposition, scenes that a better-made film would deliver effortlessly.
Instead, we get stuck with awkward segments that bring out huge gobs of information with no natural impressions at all. These make an inconsistent film even less impactful.
The nature of the characters doesn’t help, as Go wants us to invest in a lot of whiny, snobby rich people. Saddled with the same flat, generic American accent she sported in Blue Jasmine, Blanchett fails to bring any form of charm or sympathy to our lead.
Despite her inability to convey a convincing American tone, I like Blanchett, but she fails miserably here. She gives us a manic, annoying performance that ensures we never care about Bernadette.
If we follow a character on a journey to rediscover herself, we need to want to see her succeed. We don’t – we really don’t care at all.
All of this adds up to a slow, rambling 109 minutes of nonsense. Go wastes a lot of talent and becomes a frustrating mess.