Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a hugely disappointing, meandering movie that I wasn’t planning on writing about because life’s too short and all that (And I know “meandering movie” doesn’t really mean anything, but I’m not here to really talk about that aspect of the film so I’ve decided to just leave it at that.) Plus, the fact Richard Linklater directed this movie – a filmmaker I, and many others, greatly admire – I just kind of wanted to pretend Where’d You Go, Bernadette never happened.
But, here we are, because for the life of me there’s one plot point in this movie I just can’t get out of my head. And the only way to exorcise this demon is to put it into print and send it out into the world to make sure I somehow didn’t just imagine this whole thing. And, look, this is a movie filled with jaw-droppingly outlandish plot points that either go nowhere or make no sense.
So, no, this isn’t about how Bernadette (Cate Blanchett) spends a good portion of the first half of this movie telling all her problems by email to a virtual assistant who lives in India.
No, this isn’t about how she audibly dictates her emails to this virtual assistant, leaving in every little transgression about her life.
No, this isn’t about how the FBI shows up to tell her and her husband, Elgin (Billy Crudup), that the virtual assistant is not a woman in India, but actually someone in the Russian mob. And not only that, the Russian mob is on their way to Bernadette and Elgin’s house. What are the Russian mobsters going to do once they get to Bernadette and Elgin’s house? That’s not clear, but Elgin is under the impression that the mob will just take everything Bernadette and Elgin have because, “they know everything.”
And, no, this isn’t about how all of this about the Russian mob – an entire subplot that runs over half the length of the movie – is resolved in one sentence as the FBI agent tells everyone that, good news, they caught the Russian mobsters at the airport as they changed planes.
Oh, and it’s also not how an intervention is held for Bernadette to discuss her unhappiness and erratic behavior and, for some reason, the FBI agent is invited to the intervention!
Also, the entire plot of this movie hinges on the fact that Bernadette just up and vanishes one day and no one can find her. As the movie opens, we hear a somber voiceover from Bernadette’s daughter about the disappearance of her mother. In the movie, Bernadette is gone for a grand total of something like 18 hours. And for part of that, she’s just next door. Bernadette, a grown woman, was gone for a grand total of three minutes before characters started saying things like, “She disappeared into thin air!”
What I actually can’t stop thinking about is a plot point glossed over so quickly, given such little attention, that it’s almost treated as blasé, when, in reality, it would change the world. The plot point I can’t stop thinking about is how Billy Crudup’s character, Elgin, invents a device that can read your mind.
Elgin is seen on stage at a TED talk as he sticks some sort of adhesive strip to his forehead. Then he composes an email with his thoughts! The crowd then reacts to this world-changing invention as if Elgin had just announced a more efficient can opener.
The only other time this world-changing invention is mentioned is, later in the film, when he says Microsoft wasn’t interested. What?!?! I am so confused by this! Elgin invented a device that can read your mind and everyone in this movie is so ho-hum about it. Elgin winds up explaining that Microsoft decided that this world-changing device would be better suited for their video game department. And since Elgin doesn’t care about video games, he’s abandoning his invention that, if I haven’t mentioned this already, can read your mind!
The only two explanations I can reasonably think of, for how this movie treats this world-changing invention, is either that Richard Linklater thinks mind-reading devices that can compose emails already exist, and maybe this one is just a little smaller than the versions already in use – or, perhaps, this device does already exist and I have egg on my face because, like a chump, I’m sitting here typing out this piece on a keyboard, when I could have been using a readily available mind-reading device.
Anyway, poor Elgin invented something that looks like a Band-Aid that can read your mind and no … one … cares!
‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ opens in theaters today. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.