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 

REVIEW: “WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES” (2017) 20th Century Fox

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With this being the final film in the Apes trilogy saga ~ WOW! does this one have a lot to offer. From charactarization to extraordinary and beautifully done set pieces, along with spectacular next-level CG work that brings such realness to the apes. Of course it has flaws, but they are few. This truly shows how to respect original material, yet reinvent it in a way that enhances and sends it off in the right way.

If you are like me and have, whether secretly or not, always been cheering for the apes, you will love this movie. This movie has so much going on within itself the whole time, you will rarely find a dull moment. It starts with a bit of a prologue from previous films which I loved as it’s always nice to have a reminder – but done simply, clearly and precisly in a matter of a few short sentences. This will make it nice and easy for those who’ve not seen the earlier films in this series.

Of course, as the title dictates, it all starts with war. After the death of the man-hating Koba (Toby Kebbell) in “Dawn of The Planet of the Apes”, we find Caesar (Andy Serkis) looking to lead his klan to a new life where they can live in peace. But after a huge opening scene battle, where we see Caesar letting some humans live so they can take back an offer of peace to their commander known as The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). This offer is clearly rejected when they attack the apes and kill Caesars’ wife & son. And now it’s Caesar turn for revenge. Wanting to take this path of revenge on his own while sending the others off to find the peaceful land his son had found for them, he is unltimately joined by Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary), and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). Along the way they pick up Nova (Amiah Miller), a young mute girl (how she gets her name is a fun little plot line) and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), an ex-zoo ape who doesn’t speak the ape language at all and truly adds the perfect bit of fun, zany bit of humour to a oft-times, dark film. We also find out, there was a disease that came after the plague, that cause humans to go dumb as in the case of Nova. This all builds up to the reasoning behind why The Colonel wants to completely exterminate the entire Simian community.

In the midst of all this, we also meet the newest addition to Caesars’ family, one that brings us back around to the very beginning. To those of you that don’t know Cornelius (Devyn Dalton), this goes back old school – we are talking Roddy McDowell/Charlton Heston Apes beginning circa 1968. Along with a few brief appearances by Koba – more of a mirage – reminding Caesar of things such as ‘ape does not kill ape’ and how hate bred inside of him and it didn’t end well, we have a good mix of old and new being brought together to wrap everything together.

As Caesar learns his entire tribe has been captured and taken to a work camp where they are put into forced labour to build a wall, he tried desperately to figure out plans to set them free. See, turns out that The Colonel has a completely different army coming after him because he is killing his own people, including his own son, for coming down with the new ailment that seems to be contagious to some. So what do the apes do? Well what we all should. They stand up and resist and through peserverance and brainpower, they outwit their captors to find their way out. There are moments that you can’t help but think of the narrative and where it leads to and how it matches so much in a way with our past and present state of our country politically.

As for acting, you would think with all the CG effects there really couldn’t be any, and while the human characters aren’t leading the ‘interesting’ pack here, there are moments when you swear Caesar is real. While there is predictability for sure, the very climatic ending is almost in two parts and while I scoffed for a quick moment at the 2nd part, it wasn’t a scoff of disdain but rather disbelief in a good way.

Just remember ~ No one comes out of this film well, after all it is a war.

Grade: A-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Wednesday, June 21. 2017 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide Release: Friday, July 14, 2017