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Andrew

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

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So, has anyone else besides Doug C. and me seen this?  I'm so glad that Doug praised Linklater's newest on FB, because I was planning to wait till screener season to watch it, after the critical thumping it received.  It's not Linklater's best - that would be the Before trilogy and Boyhood, IMO - but it's still a strong film.  I thought Blanchett gave a nuanced performance as usual, and also as usual, Linklater's script rang with authenticity in an eloquent Ericksonian way about the struggles of middle age and parenthood.  As a social phobic/introvert/closet misanthrope, I also found Blanchett's character highly relatable.

My full review: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/2019/08/the-affecting-wisdom-of-whered-you-go-bernadette/ 

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I admired the film (my favorite Linklater is Me and Orson Welles), though probably a little less than Andrew or Doug. I sorta understand how it divided critics even though I feel they were too stingy towards it. When it hits, which is not infrequently, it is phenomenally good.  But  every time it skirts with greatness it fumbles a bit. 

**spoilers I guess**

The Good:

--Billy Crudup is phenomenal. 

--The portrayal of father-daughter is, in many ways, more interesting than the mother-daughter relationship that is supposed to be at the center of the family. What impressed me most about this part of the film is that the daughter didn't see all (or even much) of the good that the father did, and he didn't feel the need to tell her all the time. Yes, she had an idealized view of her mother that both bracketed her behavior (and their relationship) but he was somewhat heroic (imo) in the way he owned his mistakes while also being the one who was there when mom disappeared.

--I'm not a health-care professional, but the depiction of depression seemed to me to be one of the more honest ones I've seen. The film avoids putting a label on Bernadette, and it is the better for it. (It comes close in her long lunch with Laurence Fishburne and particularly in his reply, but I don't think the film totally supports the idea that his layman's diagnosis is the whole truth even if it is an important part of it.)

--The resolution, which I've heard some refer to as a too forced or unearned happy ending actually struck me as much more beautiful for it not being overly simplified. The final coda that love is a choice seemed to me both honor Bernadette and her unique struggles and her husband and the work he has to do. 

The Less Good:

--The mix of comedy with the drama didn't work for me. I appreciated the Kristen Wiig scene in the moment, but I would have been much happier with it elided and just the scene with her and the daughter walking the dog, leaving us to imagine what the living room scene renders too literally.

--I hated the opening scene leading to a flashback. I went in spoiler free (not even a trailer) and one of the real pleasures of such films is not really knowing where they are going and that they take their sweet time revealing what they are actually about. The opening added nothing that I can see to the structure and dissipated much of the tension and all of the stakes of the second act.

--There is some definite pacing problems in the third act. Stuff like the father-daughter stealing a Zodiac boat and running through some high security area and nobody having a phone or APB when she is presumed missing struck me as needless plotholes that were trying to create tension that wasn't really central to the film's meaning. 

--While I realize this is somewhat in conflict with "the good," the daughter's speech about how she *knows* mom couldn't have committed suicide struck me as, while perhaps defensible, not something the film really established and, at best, denying her (the daughter) a maturing view of her parents. Given that the film had a happy ending, I worry that such a scene implies to kids that if their depressed parents **do** commit suicide, they could have prevented it if they had had a special enough relationship. Again, this is a a tough call, because the film is coy about whether or to what extent Bernadette is mentally ill...and if so, how severely. I appreciated the attempts to explore the connections between creativity and depression and anxiety, but I worry that the film endorses (though the psychiatrist's intervention) an either-or dichotomy about the roots of Bernadette's behavior. I'm not saying people don't ever alter behaviors without therapy or medication, but the severity of her symptoms causing her distress make it a little hard for me to simply co-sign the implicit, "Hey, sometimes you just need to get away and recharge your batteries." I get that we in our society may over-diagnose and over-medicate...I'm reminded of Love & Mercy and how Brian needed to get away from some of that. But the movie also underscored that Brian was, for all that, sick, and not just a victim of a cruel, dishonest, health-care physician. 

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9 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

The Good:

--I'm not a health-care professional, but the depiction of depression seemed to me to be one of the more honest ones I've seen. The film avoids putting a label on Bernadette, and it is the better for it. (It comes close in her long lunch with Laurence Fishburne and particularly in his reply, but I don't think the film totally supports the idea that his layman's diagnosis is the whole truth even if it is an important part of it.)

--The resolution, which I've heard some refer to as a too forced or unearned happy ending actually struck me as much more beautiful for it not being overly simplified. The final coda that love is a choice seemed to me both honor Bernadette and her unique struggles and her husband and the work he has to do. 

The Less Good:

--The mix of comedy with the drama didn't work for me. I appreciated the Kristen Wiig scene in the moment, but I would have been much happier with it elided and just the scene with her and the daughter walking the dog, leaving us to imagine what the living room scene renders too literally.

--While I realize this is somewhat in conflict with "the good," the daughter's speech about how she *knows* mom couldn't have committed suicide struck me as, while perhaps defensible, not something the film really established and, at best, denying her (the daughter) a maturing view of her parents. Given that the film had a happy ending, I worry that such a scene implies to kids that if their depressed parents **do** commit suicide, they could have prevented it if they had had a special enough relationship. Again, this is a a tough call, because the film is coy about whether or to what extent Bernadette is mentally ill...and if so, how severely. I appreciated the attempts to explore the connections between creativity and depression and anxiety, but I worry that the film endorses (though the psychiatrist's intervention) an either-or dichotomy about the roots of Bernadette's behavior. I'm not saying people don't ever alter behaviors without therapy or medication, but the severity of her symptoms causing her distress make it a little hard for me to simply co-sign the implicit, "Hey, sometimes you just need to get away and recharge your batteries." I get that we in our society may over-diagnose and over-medicate...I'm reminded of Love & Mercy and how Brian needed to get away from some of that. But the movie also underscored that Brian was, for all that, sick, and not just a victim of a cruel, dishonest, health-care physician. 

A hearty 'yes' to all of the above.  In my review, I honed in more upon Bernadette's social phobia, but I think you're spot on that there's a strong element of depression (to be clinically precise, dysthymia) to her constellation of feelings and behaviors.  And yes, this would not be the ideal film for a teen with a seriously depressed parent to see.  Everyone around the depressed person typically harbors rescue fantasies as it is.  As a clinician, the segments with the therapist are a somber reminder that when told differing versions of events by patients and their families, we sometimes have to choose which one is most true, and we don't always get it right.

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