Cate Blanchett plays the title character, an agoraphobic architect, once heralded as a genius, now a hermit who hasn’t designed a building in decades. Described as one of architecture’s “true enigmas,” she hates travelling, complains that people are rude and yammer too much, can’t sleep—“Anxiety causes insomnia,” she claims, “and insomnia causes anxiety.”—rarely leaves the house and has poured all her prescription drugs into one jar. “The colours and shapes are amazing together,” she says.
The other moms in the area, next door neighbor Audrey (Kristen Wiig) and “all her flying monkeys,” don’t like her and Bernadette makes no effort to build bridges with them. “I’m not good when exposed to people.”
The only bright spots in her life are husband Elgin (Billy Crudup), 15-year-old daughter Bee (Emma Nelson) and her virtual, on-line assistant. A series of unrelated but catastrophic events, including a mini-mud slide, an identity theft ring and an intervention, prompt Bernadette to disappear without a trace, leaving Bee and Elgin to figure out where she went.
“Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is more story driven than director Richard Linklater’s recent, more slice-of-life films. In movies like “Everybody Wants Some!!” he excelled in crafting interesting situations for his characters to inhabit. Here the details aren’t so much focussed on the location or building atmosphere, but in creating a layered and compelling central character.
Blanchett applies a light touch here, playing up the funny moments, but still digging in when it comes time to deal with the “formality of life.” It’s a lovely performance in a film that rambles somewhat, but ultimately finds touching moments in the story of a woman who had to get lost to find herself.