Where'd You Go, Bernadette ★★★

Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Maria Semple’s Where'd You Go, Bernadette strips much of the grit and mystery from the Seattle-based bestseller. What remains is an ode to pulling yourself out of the trap of the banality of life with Cate Blanchett in full neurotic, sardonic yet tender and ambitious splendor. Without duplicating her Oscar-winning neurotic performance in Blue Jasmine, Saint Blanchett ricochets in her own brain--monologuing emails to her virtual assistant, raging against Seattle and its privileged monotony, braving the school pick-up without ample Xanax--as Bernadette Fox finds that her 20 year hiatus doesn’t mean the pilot light can’t again be sparked. Though I miss the scene where Bernadette messily eats a Cinnabon in an airport while crying, the mother-daughter duet to “Time After Time” to a pre-intervention soul-spilling with former mentor Laurence Fishburn show layers of character that elevates the movie. Emma Nelson as daughter Bee Branch debuts with solid dramatic chops, capturing nerdy teen better than Kristen Wiig managed PTA-president-bitch-realness. Wiig may have done it for Minnesota, but there was no Seattle native in her frumpy fleeces. The Fox/Branch house is the in-progress version of everything I could want in home decor: I hope they don’t sue when I steal that book covered staircase whenever I live in a place with stairs again (so probably never). I found myself incessantly smiling, and editor Sandra Adair (Oscar nominee for Boyhood)--besides that sudden ending--added in the punch for a story that would have drowned in its epistolary beginnings. Though I am a sucker for anyone who adds a yawning seal at the right moment, so my eye is going to be quite specific on Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Don’t buy the mediocre reviews; this is my feel good film of the summer.