REVIEW: “WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE” (2019) Annapurna Pictures

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Imagine my surprise sitting five minutes into this movie and realizing it all seems so familiar somehow.  Unfortunately that is the fate of being an avid reader as well as film goer, I realized I’d read Maria Semple’s wonderful 2012 novel “WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE” (no ? mark by the way) maybe a year or more ago.  And the bad thing about doing so, is it takes you into that dreaded  “spoiler alert” zone which we all try to avoid.

As director Richard Linklater has nabbed this one up and added Cate Blanchett in the lead role of Bernadette Fox, Billy Crudup as her husband Elgin, and rounding out the lead family roles with newcomer Emma Nelson as their daughter Bee.  He takes this rather dark comic tale of a highly creative, yet completely unhappy woman, who’s suppressed her creative talent for a few decades and finally seems to rediscover it through an unlikely journey.  The book is also, as the title suggests, a mystery, though the film seems to leave this portion by the wayside.  The story told comes mostly from two viewpoints. The first part which let’s us get to know the character we are dealing with, comes from Bernadette herself in emails to ‘Mangula’ her India based ‘virtual assistant’ and really have her coming off like a rich woman, who does nothing but bitch and moan about the other women in the picture, neighbor Audrey (Kristen Wiig) and Soo Lin (Zoe Chao). All this whilst living in a decaying mansion meant to have be re-done for years, and did we mention the loads of wealth thanks to husband Elgin having accrued it as a tech titan.

The other half is mostly woven together by Bee, who’s become the sole focus in her mother’s stuck in neutral life. It soon becomes clear that Bee’s also the only person in Bernadette’s orbit who truly understands and accepts her and her ridiculous bad behaviour towards pretty much anyone within shouting distance.  The endless seams being put together here a lot of Bernadette’s misery, the odd way she defects from the community she lives in as they shun her. Yet even though she practically destroys neighbor Audrey’s house, oddly she is also the one to help her escape from the realities she can no longer face and helps her embark on a new journey of adventure and discovery.

Linklater’s undertaking of this book was maybe as task he wasn’t quite up for as while he does great by casting Blanchette who relishes this type of character and can play this persona in her sleep, but he also misses some very pertinent portions of the book that makes the film seem almost uneven.  It’s like he left the best parts of the book on the cutting room floor. Wiig is wonderful as well, and some cameos by Lawrence Fishburne, Megan Mullally, and Steve Zahn are fun, and newcomer Nelson does well on her first go round her being in such stellar company, she definitely holds her own.   While the cinematography is wonderful once they get into the Antarctica portion of the film – it’s almost piecemealed together with what the purpose is of her leaving, what she is trying to do out there, how she gets there, how her husband and daughter try to find her is just given to you here, and it’s lines are not well connected, whereas as the book makes you really understand and feel the panic of not knowing where her mother is or why. Again, major plot portions are skimmed over when they are integral to the story.  Linklater just took to long to help us understand the complexity of Bernadette and her real struggles in skips and starts rather than with the flow that was needed.

While the film has it’s quirky, funny moments, I feel like a lot of this was a swing and a miss for Linklater who is always trying to challenge himself. There are things to appreciate, like the musical score and performances but not a whole lot else in this rather uneventful and non memorable film.  In other words I’m telling you to read the book and do so after you’ve seen the film. It will make much more sense then.

Grade: C

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Film group.

“WHERE’D YA GO BERNADETTE” IS IN U.S. THEATERS NOW 

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REVIEW: “ALIEN COVENANT” (2017) 2OTH CENTURY FOX

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So here we are 10 years after “Prometheus” and a whopping 38 years after the original, we have Ridley Scott’s continuation of the well-known “ALIEN” film series with “ALIEN COVENANT.” Question proposed here – is there really anything new to add to the saga?
You know the formula of these films by heart by now. There’s usually a spaceship, an unknown planetary destination, a crew – most of whom will not survive, a diversion of some sort, and lastly..the Alien itself. It’s how well they are done and actually take the story forward (or in some cases backward), that make the film. Here the crew of the colony ship “Covenant” is on the way to a remote planet at the other end of the galaxy. There they discover something that first appears like an undiscovered ‘paradise’, which in this case means an atmosphere humans would be able to survive in and colonize. When in fact, it turns out to be a dark and dangerous place when they discover what and whom it’s actually occupied by, we are not really surprised.

Without going into any spoilers, which by the way you will be able to figure out within the first hour, we open with a rather creeped out scene set before the events of the previous film between Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland and David (Michael Fassbender), who is fresh off the assembly line. Thankfully it gives us a touch into the idea of what’s to come but still doesn’t really answer why David does what he does. Also we do find out what happened to Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the severed android head of her android David, but it’s not all that compelling and for those of you who can remember all of Prometheus I give you kudos, because I couldn’t.

As for the cast, you’ll get to know them pretty quickly and effectively even if you won’t remember them all by name because the casuality list is long and fast. Mercifully they are not made to look like dunces in the way that the crew of the Prometheus ended up as. Danny McBride as Tennessee is one of the stand outs though, working surprisingly well in a serious role as a cowboy hat wearing pilot, along with his wife Faris (Amy Seimetz). Katherine Waterston as Daniels tries aptly enough to fill Ripley’s shoes here as the the ships second in command, and the main character for most of the action in the film.

Billy Crudup also delivers a solid performance as Captain Oram, who is thrust unexpectedly into that role during the opening space mission scene and is constantly at doubt with himself when it comes to decision making. The constant reminders that he is a man of faith and is often at odds with the rest of his crew on those decisions does get a little heavy handed at times. But it is because of exactly this reason, he is also one of the few crew members you will actually remember along with Sgt. Lope (Demian Bechir) as the head of the security unit. And lastly, oddly enough the cameo from James Franco as Jacob Branson, the start-off Captain of Covenant, will remain in your head throughout the film.

When it comes to Fassbender, without spoiling anything let’s just say that he builds upon his creepy with the dual roles here. Watching the David/Walter scenes together though are some of the most slow, too lengthy moments of the film with even their fight scene coming in at a sort of head-shaking weird.

Lastly, the aliens themselves..well I won’t lie to you, they are pretty typical for a film of this type. There were moments of the eyeroll type laughter from the audience when and how they first appear. You also won’t find the type of tension here that you found when you saw the previous Alien films – you know – the whole ‘not knowing’ buildup of tension & excitement. There are no surprises nor really just any of that edge of your seat/don’t look tension here. You know when and how they are coming and who’s not going to make it pretty quickly in. A solid enough sci-fi thriller, with some gory jump scares about sums it up perfectly with the final scene being the best, and of course leading you into the next film in the series.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Screening Review: Friday, May 5, 2017 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide Release: Friday, May 19, 2017