Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Where'd You Go, Bernadette Movie Poster Image
Book-based tale of eccentric genius; mature themes, cursing.
  • PG-13
  • 2019
  • 104 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Several positive messages about not judging others (even a city) by stereotypes, the importance of connecting to the world and others around you, and the power of close, honest parent-child relationships. Bernadette's story also shows how exceptional men and women can be judged differently for their parenting skills and personality traits. Conversation between Bernadette and Paul stresses the life-changing difference a mentor can make. The idea that creators need to create or they become "menaces to society" is worth discussion. Bernadette and Elgin's decision to weather the storms in their marriage demonstrates how marriage and commitment are more than a feeling but also a choice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

At first Bernadette seems like a privileged, white stay-at-home mom who hates everyone and everything but her husband and daughter. But as the story continues, it becomes clear that she's also a genius, a problem solver, and a dedicated wife and mom. Bee is a caring, mature teen daughter who loves her mother and considers her a best friend. Paul realizes how he's failed his wife and why he needs to support her as she's supported him.

Violence

Part of a hillside slides down and crashes into a home, causing property damage and frightening guests at a party. Arguments.

Sex

Kisses between a married couple. A character acts smitten with her boss.

Language

Two uses of "f--k you," as well as the occasional use of "bitch," "s--t," "douche bag," "a--hole," "ass," "crap," "hell," "damn," "oh my God," etc. A woman calls the other moms at her kids' school "gnats." Bee angrily tells her friend Kennedy to "take her Ritalin and be quiet" and then reminds her dad that "he doesn't even like Kennedy."

Consumerism

Jaguar sedan, Under Armour, Dansko, Doc Martens, Dell. Elgin works at Microsoft, and the company is mentioned several times. Lots and lots of Amazon (with noticeable Amazon Prime packing tape) boxes and Apple products: MacBook, iPad, iPhone. One Ocean Expeditions to Antarctica is also featured prominently in the third act.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink at receptions, dinners, and on a cruise, mostly wine and cocktails. Quick glimpse of a teen vaping marijuana with an adult acquaintance. Conversation about a teen who's stoned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Where'd You Go, Bernadette is director Richard Linklater's adaptation of Maria Semple's best-selling 2012 novel about an eccentric, anxious, and borderline agoraphobic Seattle mother. But Bernadette (Cate Blanchett) is more than she seems (a bored, rich housewife); she's actually an architectural genius who hasn't worked in nearly 20 years. Expect a few instances of strong language (including two uses of "f--k" and the occasional "bitch," "ass," "s--t," etc.), as well as several shots of Bernadette's conspicuous consumerism in the form of Amazon packages and Apple products. A teen vapes, and adults drink. Mature content also includes marital discord and a couple of upsetting arguments. But there's plenty to discuss, from sexism and stereotypes to the importance of mentors and close parent-teen relationships.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byFiestaFilly August 23, 2019

Go see this movie NOW!! On the Big Screen!! Bernadette gives you an adventure to Antarctica and back, giving a healing booster to your own soul, strength, mind and spirit along the way.

Go see it now on the Big Screen! Take your family! Take your friends! Go by yourself! Just Go!! Take some time afterwards for heartsharing.
Read the Book... Continue reading
Adult Written bylpetlock August 31, 2019

FABULOUS!! BRILLIANT. HUGELY ENTERTAINING AND AUTHENTIC.

Go see this beautiful and heartwarming film. So tastefully done! Cate Blanchette -- simply wonderful performance. The other actors are great too! Especially... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byIzzy882 April 17, 2020

GREAT

This movie was the best! It was so heartwarming and good. There is a little swearing but nothing major.
Teen, 14 years old Written byReviewer045 January 10, 2020

Just boring and lacking

I feel this movie is lacking a lot in terms of plot holes and character growth. There are so many questions left unanswered at the end of the movie, and I felt... Continue reading

What's the story?

Richard Linklater's WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is an adaptation of Maria Semple's popular 2012 book about an eccentric, anxious, semi-agoraphobic, and mean Seattle mother/wife named Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett). Bernadette only really cares about her daughter, Bee (Emma Nelson), and her husband, Elgin Branch (Billy Crudup), a rich Microsoft visionary. And she especially can't stand the "Galen School Gnats" (the busybody, do-gooder moms at Bee's liberal-elite private school), like her neighbor Audrey (Kristen Wiig). After finishing middle school with perfect grades, the precocious Bee asks for a holiday family trip to Antarctica -- a request to which Bernadette, who can barely leave the house and outsources nearly all of her duties to Manjula, an email-based virtual assistant in India, surprisingly agrees. But as the trip nears, Bernadette -- who, it turns out, is a former MacArthur "Genius" award-winning architect who hasn't worked in 20 years -- goes missing.

Is it any good?

The performances, particularly Blanchett's, outweigh the product in this adaptation that favors audiences familiar with the story and its anxious-genius main character. There's a moment in the film where Bernadette tells a research scientist that she needs to inhabit a space completely to design for it; that's also how Blanchett immerses herself in a character, whether it's Queen Elizabeth, Galadriel, Kate Hepburn, Jasmine, or Hela. The character of Bernadette is purposely unlikable at first, with her utter contempt and petty squabbles and her upper-class distance from reality. Her one happy place is any time she's with her daughter, Bee, who's the apple of Bernadette's eye and possibly the only person around whom she's joyful. But Blanchett is brilliant at expressing the subtle changes that revive Bernadette's artistic energy.

Opposite Blanchett, the standouts start with young Nelson, who's wonderful as Bernadette's intelligent and curious miracle child; may casting directors find more coming-of-age work for her. Crudup's Elgin is perhaps too sympathetic in the film and not as overtly an egotistical workaholic as his character is in the book, but it's still clear that none of the other school parents blame or hate him for not being involved, the way they do Bernadette. And Laurence Fishburne is remarkably effective in one pivotal conversation scene as Bernadette's prophetic and inspiring former mentor. Visually, the film focuses on architecture and the design of each space in a way that honors the main character. Plotwise, however, those who haven't read the book may be less invested in the central story arc, especially with the Manjula storyline, which is more humorously handled in the source material. This is an adaptation to see because of the performances more than anything else, because Blanchett always makes it worth a viewer's time.

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether Where'd You Go, Bernadette is likely to be best enjoyed by those who read the novel first, or whether it's easy to follow if you haven't read the book. What are some of your favorite page-to-screen adaptations, and why?

  • What does Paul mean when he says that artists become a "menace to society" when they can't create? Does it change the way you perceive Bernadette when it becomes clear that she's a brilliant and renowned architect?

  • How does the movie portray parent-teen relationships? Why is the bond between Bernadette and Bee so unique?

  • What does Bernadette's story arc teach about self-awareness, change, and redemption? Are there any role models in the movie? How do they display curiosity and perseverance?

Movie details

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