Book Review: Where’d You Go Bernadette (2012)

(PG-13 movie to be released August 16, 2019)

There are over 100 books being adapted to film this year. This gave me the idea to start reading and reviewing some of these books before seeing the adaptations. I’ve done some research and I’m planning out what will be read based on how interesting the story seems, if there is an interesting star attached to the project, when the movie is coming out of course, etc. Don’t know how it will all be executed, but I’m figuring out the logistics of it all now. Maybe I’ll start some sort of a virtual book/movie club! The plans are in the early stages. I’ll keep anyone who gives a care updated. Comment below or e-mail me at bloopbymimi@gmail.com if you are interested in the book club idea.

So, this is the first time I am reviewing a book, but I’m not just reviewing the books. I’m reading in order to try and figure out how the movie might go as well. Is the story strong enough or interesting enough to be made into a film? Etc. I’m making predictions and presumptions and laying out my hopes about how the movie the book is based on should or should not be executed, if that makes any sense. I figured at the very least, this little experiment will cause me to read more. I’ll write up book reviews then attach it to the movie review and see what I got right and what I got wrong. Don’t know if you’ll have fun reading it (I hope you do!), but I think I will have fun doing it! Should I find I’m not having fun (and that’s just may be the case since I despise knowing anything about movies before I see them, but I’m willing to give this a go for a bit at least.), I’ll just stop.

As you know, anything can happen in Hollywood. A movie may get made and set upon the shelf forever, things change, people drop out of projects, projects dissolve… Hopefully the books I pick will actually make it to a screen. This is why I went with “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” first because it already has a release date. Since Cate Blanchett does consistently solid work, I figured, this would be a good book with which to begin my book reviews.

*****

Update: I wrote this is February, 2019 in anticipation of a March release date and the movie was pushed back to August. (I warned you anything can happen in Hollywood…) Where’d You Go Bernadette (comedy/drama/mystery) is due in theaters August 16th.

*****

Written by Maria Semple, co-adapted to screenplay and directed by Richard Linklater (Everybody Wants Some and Boyhood – so the man knows his way around a coming of age movie, which Where’d You Go, Bernadette is, partially), starring Cate Blanchett and Kristen Wiig, Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2012) is told through letters, blog posts, emails, etc., along with Bee, Bernadette’s 15 year old daughter, recounting some of what happens/happened (mostly) to Bernadette that makes her the woman she is today. How did she get here? Where did she go?

Amazon describes it as “A whip-smart, hysterical dramedy about a family in crisis after the disappearance of its brilliant, misanthropic matriarch.”

Barnes & Noble’s synopses reads:

Bernadette Fox has vanished.

When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces.

Which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades. “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are, and the power of a daughter’s love for her mother.

*****

My first impression was that the book is bland and pedestrian. That was on page 17. Then I got to page 25 and things became interesting. I lost and gained interest in this way again and again throughout nearly the entire book. The good parts were good and there were a couple of great parts (two where my jaw dropped, one where I laughed out loud and one where I laughed out loud while riding the subway in New York and I didn’t care, so I laughed for a good two minutes straight – blending right in with the crazies. That’s what New York is all about. You gotta love this town.), but the lulls were torture.

I enjoy the structure of the book and how it tells the story through written communications. It’s clever that the scenes and characters change with nearly each entry as I imagined what the voices of each writer might sound like in my head. I have great doubts that this structure will translate well onto film unless someone really thinks outside the box. Similarly to The Girl on the Train (my review in the link) the structure of the book was its greatest feature. On film it could easily turn out to be another choppy, muddled mess.

Having someone well versed in coming of age story-telling will be a plus. I enjoyed Bee discovering all the dirty truths adults keep from children, imagining her innocence wrecked, as she recounts some of what happens/has happened.

I didn’t care for the references to Seattle/Starbucks/Microsoft. Writing in this way can sometimes alienate those who aren’t from that city, may have never been to that city, don’t have any loyalty to that city, have no idea what you the author is talking about or may not love the city as much as the author. It makes the story too specific to a certain way of life, particularly for a film. Now if anyone wants to talk about “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” as a sit-com or family dramedy, I could see that being more successful. Anyone who didn’t grow up in Seattle or whose parents didn’t work for Microsoft or in tech, or have children, or plenty of money, or a spouse to support them while they withdraw from life, or all these things Bernadette has, is involved with or exposed to, etc., might (probably will) make her character unrelatable on screen to viewers.

From a film-making standpoint this specificity of location and lifestyle reminded me of two movies I didn’t like very much for this very reason; Lady Bird (Sacramento) (my review in the link. It earned 5 out of 10 bloops); and the other was 20th Century Women (southern California) (which I really hated. It earned 3.5 out of 10 bloops). Each featured the city/cities they were filmed in as characters upon which much affection was bestowed. I can see the exact same thing happening with Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

Similarly to “Lady Bird” and “20th Century Women,” “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is another story about a dysfunctional, middle-aged, mother with narcissistic tendencies and a quirky/smart/independent/free spirited/talented/struggling for autonomy/insecure (you fill in the adjectives or the combination of adjectives), coming of age child, their somewhat dysfunctional relationship and their first-world problems. Who has money to buy an entire piece of property without their spouse knowing about it? Or spend $60,000 on family travel on a whim. I’m sure rich people have stories to tell, but they have to work a bit harder to interest the rest of us. Bernadette ventures a bit further into the discussion regarding poor mental health than the other two movies mentioned above, but that doesn’t take away from the similarities from story to story. What I appreciate about this recycled story line is that it keeps veteran actresses like Cate Blanchett, Laurie Metcalf and Susan Sarandon in circulation. You know you’ll get some solid performances, but you might let out a few yawns while you’re watching because the story is just, meh.

At times “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” wanders into and gets bogged down in these areas of information. Pardon me, but I just don’t care about the history of architecture in the 80s, how small the offices are at Microsoft. I had to skip over the discussions about Seattle’s traffic patterns. I understand it shows how fixated and irrationally vexed Bernadette can be with things she has no control over, but Dear Lord was it boring!

The story meanders and presents as a series of stories, some of which need to be fleshed out, others eliminated and some magnified. The book’s ending attempts to take you on some sort of distracting ride which results in a simple ending all tied up in a neat little bow. I dislike pat endings, particularly for a movie and I’m hoping something about how the book ended changes on film.

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette” earned 5 out of 10 bloops in book form and can go either way when it is adapted to film. It’s and easy read that is okay if you rent it from the library for free or borrow it from a fellow reader. I would not recommend as a purchase for your home library. It will not be easy to boil down this hodgepodge of a story into a succinctly written script. The material is definitely there, but much poetic license needs to be taken with this book. Otherwise I fear it will be a formulaic fail. It needs to be dissected so that the most interesting parts of it remain while letting go of all the “extra.” I don’t believe it can be told straight on well.

The character, Audrey (Kirsten Wiig’s character) has great comic potential. I’d like the story to be more about Bernadette and her husband, and less about Bee, but considering who wrote it and directed, I believe we’ll get another coming of age something-or-another.

We will find out how much of this I got right after the movie is released. I will most likely see it opening weekend so I can report back. I have to clear my mind of everything I read in this book and see how the adaptation is handled. At the very least, this may encourage me to get my reviews up in a more timely manner. (I’ve been slacking lately, I know.) Even if I got everything wrong I won’t be too embarrassed to come back and admit it. It’s only a movie, right?

Thank you for reading. You can scroll down, enter your email address to subscribe to bloopbymimi, and never miss a review or follow me on twitter @bloopbymimi1 

 Bloops:

1   =   worst book ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor book, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good book, worth reading
8   =   great book, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent book, a must read!
10 =   a masterpiece, read it now!

Other Book Reviews

None Yet.

What I’m Reading Next

Harlan Coban’s Six Years sounds too intriguing for it not to be next up. Hugh Jackman is attached to the project which makes it extra special to me. I love Hugh. He is one of the very, very few actors whose work I will go out of my way to see.

Here’s the synopsis:

Six years have passed since Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd.

But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for…but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for almost two decades, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life—a time he has never gotten over—is turned completely inside out.

As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found, or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart, who lied to him, soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on a carefully constructed fiction.

Movie reviews

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Shaft
Rocketman
Shazam
Dumbo
Us
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood
The Wife
If Beale Street Could Talk
What Men Want
Eighth Grade                          Vice                                                     Roma
Mary Queen of Scots            Widows                                              The Favourite
Green Book                            Halloween                                         Nobody’s Fool
Bohemian Rhapsody            Beautiful Boy                                    The Hate U Give
First Man                                Assassination Nation                       The Oath
A Star is Born                        The House with a Clock in Its Walls  A Simple Favor

The Predator                           BlackkKlansman                              Support the Girls
Peppermint                             Christopher Robin                            Crazy Rich Asians
The Happytime Murders      RBG                                                     Won’t You Be My Neighbor
Sorry to Bother You               
You Were Never Really Here
Rampage                                   A Quiet Place                                   Ready Player One
A Wrinkle in Time                  Lady Bird                                          I, Tonya
The Florida Project                 Black Panther                                  Molly’s Game
The Post                                    Phantom Thread                             Den of Thieves
All the Money in the World  Coco                                                   The Greatest Showman
The Disaster Artist                 Call Me By Your Name

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Shape of Water                Marshall                  The Man Who Invented Christmas
Victoria and Abdul                 Thor: Ragnarok                    Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Mother!                                     It                                             Good Time
Atomic Blonde                         Dunkirk                                 Girls Trip
Spider-Man: Homecoming   The Big Sick                          Baby Driver
All Eyez on Me                       It Comes at Night                  The Wedding Plan 
Wonder Woman                    Everything, everything        King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Raw                                           Kong: Skull Island              Logan
The Girl with All the Gifts    A Cure for Wellness           Get Out
Hidden Figures                      Fences                                   Moonlight
Hell or High Water                Loving                                  La La Land
Lion                                          Manchester by the Sea     Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge                      Nocturnal Animals            Captain Fantastic
Elle                                           Jackie                                    I Am Not Your Negro
The Lobster

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (R)

Co-written by Jimmy Fails and Joe Talbot, directed by Joe Talbot and starring Jimmy Fails and Jonathan Majors, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is one part coming of age story, one part love letter to San Francisco and one part love story between a young man and a piece of real estate that represents home for him.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is well written and has a great deal of content that is packed with themes. The main character is written with great specificity, but his story is still relatable to many. The plot deals with homelessness, transiency, peer pressure, family dynamics, gentrification, etc. Most importantly, it deals with all the different relationships the main character has with those around him, and how those closest to us (either emotionally or in spatial proximity) can hinder or assist in our development.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco specifically examines what it means to be a black man within in the “black community,” in this particular instance, meaning “the hood”. How does one establish autonomy and develop artistic expression among a community of men who bully, belittle and minimize what they do not understand? How does one thrive without “dumbing down” in order to fit in and be accepted by others. How does one remain true to one’s self and exist as a leader in an environment where the norm is to follow along, go along to get along, etc., in order to be accepted and survive. One of the most interesting things about this movie is the symbolism of stagnation; how the main character goes through all these changes in many aspects of his life, looks outside of the “hood” for peace and satisfaction, etc., while the same group of guys never moved, never grew, never developed, standing in the exact same spot throughout – and then looked down on the guys who were different and wanted to do something different. This is a great movie to watch with young adults as it offers lessons in individuality, friendship and how being in “the in crowd” isn’t always beneficial.

The acting is strong with not one weak link in the bunch. The cast is a mix of fresh newcomers and seasoned veterans. Rob Morgan gives an outstanding performance, as usual.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco pays homage to the streets of San Francisco in a fresh and realistic way, showing the contrasting “beauty” and “grit” of it all and the parallel between the two as they relate to the “haves” and the “have-nots” and the fantasy world vs. the reality of the world the main character lives in daily. The writers use settings to express pain/repression/the past vs. hope/dreams/the potential future in many instances. San Francisco is used as this complex character that helps to make the movie all the more interesting.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco earned 8 out of 10 bloops. It’s a great, well acted, well written, thoughtful, original film that is definitely worth seeing. It’s still in select theaters (in New York City at BAM and the Angelika Film Center until Thursday and at Village East Cinema until Monday). If you’re over all the Hollywood remakes, sequels and super hero movies, go out and support this film, but if you miss it be sure to catch it streaming. The Last Black Man in San Francisco DVD and Blu-ray release date is set for August 27, 2019 and available on Digital HD from Amazon Video and iTunes on August 13, 2019.

Thank you for reading. You can scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, hit the “follow” button and enter your email address to subscribe to bloopbymimi, and never miss a review; or you can follow me on twitter (which I must get more savvy with and active on!) @bloopbymimi1

Bloops:

1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

What I’m seeing next…

I am still way, way behind in my movie viewing/reviewing. Please hang in there with me while I work on posting all the content I have written up while catching up.

What I’m watching next

8/9     The Kitchen 

Other Reviews (Please excuse the look of this section. It is STILL a work in progress.)

Shaft
Rocketman
Shazam
Dumbo
Us
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood
The Wife
If Beale Street Could Talk
What Men Want
Eighth Grade                          Vice                                                     Roma
Mary Queen of Scots            Widows                                              The Favourite
Green Book                            Halloween                                         Nobody’s Fool
Bohemian Rhapsody            Beautiful Boy                                    The Hate U Give
First Man                                Assassination Nation                       The Oath
A Star is Born                        The House with a Clock in Its Walls  A Simple Favor

The Predator                           BlackkKlansman                              Support the Girls
Peppermint                             Christopher Robin                            Crazy Rich Asians
The Happytime Murders      RBG                                                     Won’t You Be My Neighbor
Sorry to Bother You               
You Were Never Really Here
Rampage                                   A Quiet Place                                   Ready Player One
A Wrinkle in Time                  Lady Bird                                          I, Tonya
The Florida Project                 Black Panther                                  Molly’s Game
The Post                                    Phantom Thread                             Den of Thieves
All the Money in the World  Coco                                                   The Greatest Showman
The Disaster Artist                 Call Me By Your Name

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Shape of Water                Marshall                  The Man Who Invented Christmas
Victoria and Abdul                 Thor: Ragnarok                    Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Mother!                                     It                                             Good Time
Atomic Blonde                         Dunkirk                                 Girls Trip
Spider-Man: Homecoming   The Big Sick                          Baby Driver
All Eyez on Me                       It Comes at Night                  The Wedding Plan 
Wonder Woman                    Everything, everything        King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Raw                                           Kong: Skull Island              Logan
The Girl with All the Gifts    A Cure for Wellness           Get Out
Hidden Figures                      Fences                                   Moonlight
Hell or High Water                Loving                                  La La Land
Lion                                          Manchester by the Sea     Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge                      Nocturnal Animals            Captain Fantastic
Elle                                           Jackie                                    I Am Not Your Negro
The Lobster