'Where'd You Go, Bernadette' Is A Cautionary Tale About Putting Creativity Aside Where'd You Go, Bernadette stars Cate Blanchett as a brilliant architect who hasn't designed anything in 20 years. The film, directed by Richard Linklater, was adapted from Maria Semple's 2012 novel.
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'Bernadette' Is A Cautionary Tale About Putting Creativity Aside After Kids

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'Bernadette' Is A Cautionary Tale About Putting Creativity Aside After Kids

'Bernadette' Is A Cautionary Tale About Putting Creativity Aside After Kids

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Bernadette Fox is a successful architect in a rut. She hasn't designed anything in 20 years. She has insomnia. Her only joy is her daughter Bee, whom she had after several miscarriages.


CATE BLANCHETT: (As Bernadette Fox) I just need you to know how hard it is for me sometimes.

EMMA NELSON: (As Bee Branch) What's hard?

BLANCHETT: (As Bernadette Fox) The banality of life. But I retain the right to be incredibly moved by those little things no one notices.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And then one day after a surprise intervention with a psychiatrist organized by her husband, Bernadette Fox up and disappears. "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" has been adapted from a book into a movie starring Cate Blanchett and directed by Richard Linklater. And they join me now from Toronto. Welcome.

BLANCHETT: Thank you.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: When we meet Bernadette Fox, she's a different person than the one we hear about before moving to Seattle with her family. So let's start with, who was Bernadette Fox?

BLANCHETT: Well, that's the eternal question, isn't it? She was a MacArthur genius. She was someone in a very happy marriage to a kind of a tech wizard. And then I think something that the book doesn't really deal with but I always thought was the quintessential change in her life is that she then had a series of miscarriages, and so grief started to enter her life. And at the same time, she experienced monumental creative failure. And so she ran away from both of those experiences and ended up in Seattle. And so Seattle became the point of all her rage and frustration and grief.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have to say, Seattle does not do well in this film (laughter).

LINKLATER: I love Seattle. I've had nothing but great experiences there. It just shows that anyone can be in a wonderful city, and if you're miserable, you can take it out on whatever your surroundings happen to be.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Richard, you adapted this movie from the book. Why did you want to do it?

LINKLATER: Oh, gosh, just the utter complexity of Bernadette, that character, and the notion of an artist who's not making their art, which haunts every artist, I would imagine. It does me. I've been fortunate to not go 20 years, you know, to have these huge breaks. But there's just a rich area of so much going on.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I do want to know, Cate, because you brought this up, about the miscarriages and how she basically gave up so much of herself to have a child I think is a really rich theme throughout the film.

BLANCHETT: Yeah. I mean, it's - I think it's a portrait of a marriage in a family as much as it is about a creative journey. And I think that there's a point that a lot of people could connect to in their own relationships is that as one person's career is taking off, another one is stepping back. And then how do you re-enter the thing that you're meant to be doing, which is creating and making something? And how do you juggle that with letting a child go? Because apart from her being a creative force, Bernadette's also someone who is incapable of entering the next chapter of her life. And I think that a lot of people, whether they're fathers or mothers, find that really difficult.

LINKLATER: Creativity thwarted is probably the most toxic thing in the world. You know, the artist thwarted is lethal.

BLANCHETT: And I think, too, with - that a creative energy, which we have as humans, it will out. You know, like, I've been running away from being an actor my entire life, and I feel like I'm constantly running away from it. But if...


BLANCHETT: Constantly. It's always like this is the last one. No one...


BLANCHETT: Oh, well, look; I mean, Dr. Freud, how long you got? But it does pursue you. And I think that that's the thing is Bernadette has said, nope, I've made a promise. That's why I call my child Bala Krishna. She was blue, and I promised whatever higher force there is that if she survives, I'm going to put all my creative energy into my child, which she did. And the problem is the child is now getting ready to leave, and she's got all this energy and so if she doesn't adhere it to creating and making something new, she's going to start feeding on herself and start feeding on her neighbor and on Seattle and on her marriage. And fortunately, she - without wanting to give the game away - she does find something.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have to say, what I loved in the film is the mother-daughter relationship and how much her daughter loves her and doesn't want her to change. And, you know, there's this very poignant scene where she tells the father that, you know, we've been having a lot of fun while you've been off working. We've been having a good time and that Bernadette's her best friend.

BLANCHETT: You know, yeah - well, exactly. It often happens. You know, I do say to my kids a lot - I say, you know, in the end, I love you, but I'm your mother. I'm not your friend. So you've got to let your children go out into the world and make and connect to their own generation and be - they're going to be outside the home. It's really painful and difficult. And the thing is Bernadette is really isolated and in a way her daughter is really isolated and now she's going to move on and go away to school. And so they've both got to let something very precious and very special go.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And, Cate, when you said that you've been running away from acting, I'm wondering what you would like to run away to. But is it the parenting? I mean, is it when you have children that you're constantly feeling torn, or is it something else?

BLANCHETT: Oh, I'm sure that's part of it. You know, someone asked me a while ago - they said, well, what else are you passionate about? And I went, oh, plastic bags? Plastic bags really upset me. Leaf blowers really upset me. Additives really - there's so many - you know, but in a way, I think probably why I keep returning to acting is because you get a chance to empathetically enter someone else's experience. I think my own experience interests me very little. But also I'm a working actor, so I've got nothing to complain about.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Richard, ultimately, this is a very uplifting film.

LINKLATER: I hope so because, to me, this is the definition of a hard-earned hopefulness. It didn't come easy for anyone in this film despite their apparent privilege. If there's any message here, it's you have to kind of grind it out. And I wasn't trying to make a simple, satisfying ending.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I can promise you, it wasn't simple, but it was satisfying (laughter).

LINKLATER: OK. Well, that's a good mark that we were aiming for, I believe.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm sorry if you felt that it should have been unsatisfying, but it was not.



GARCIA-NAVARRO: Cate Blanchett and Richard Linklater's new movie is "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" Thank you so much.

BLANCHETT: Thank you.

LINKLATER: All right. Nice talking to you.


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