Director Richard Linklater, along with his co-writers, producer, and editor for the new film, spoke at a Q&A after a special AFS premiere


After the Austin Film Society premiere of his film Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Richard Linklater tossed out that it’s “kind of a woman’s movie.” Based on the bestselling novel, the drama, adapted by Linklater and the co-writer team of Holly Gent and Vincent Palmo, Jr. (Me and Orson Welles), stars Cate Blanchett as repressed mother Bernadette. She channels a manic energy into preparations for a trip to Antarctica, leaving voice memos for an unseen online assistant and causing consternation for neighbors.

Linklater said Maria Semple’s book “gets its hooks in you.” Sitting with the director, Gent spoke about relating to Bernadette, who drops her career to raise her daughter but quietly worries about the prospect of a child leaving home. Editor Sandra Adair (Bernie, other Linklater projects) was drawn to the “deep inner conflict” within Bernadette.

Photo by Genevieve Haggard.

Blanchett is electric as the eccentric lead, and the director praised her work ethic and the complexity she gave to the performance. Producer Ginger Sledge commented that the actress talked to everyone on set about her character. My friend and I agreed that we appreciated Blanchett’s take on Bernadette more than in Semple’s book. There are dimensions she is allowed in the film that stand out in Blanchett’s portrayal. Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette emphasizes the character’s talent for architecture, and how Bernadette’s creativity is stifled in her home life.

From L to R: Holly Herrick (AFS), Linklater, Holly Gent, Vincent Palmo, Jr., Ginger Sledge, and Sandra Adair. Photo by Rod Machen

There’s a faux documentary within the film celebrating Bernadette’s artistic works. Linklater said that originally the doc was as long as 20 minutes and opened the film. This may explain why the first cut of Where’d You Go, Bernadette was 3 hours. Adair spoke of the long process in post, as the score (by Austin composer Graham Reynolds) evolved in stages. They preferred to build a slow reveal of who Bernadette is… besides an anxious mother and wife.

It’s the slow reveal that makes the viewer more curious about the main character. Blanchett shares sweet banter with young Emma Nelson as daughter Bee and no chemistry with Billy Crudup as her tech inventor husband. The privilege of their life — the huge, falling-apart house beset with blackberry vines, the private school Bee attends, the fact that they can make plans for a trip to the Arctic on short notice — provides little satisfaction or enough challenge for Bernadette.

Linklater dedicated Where’d You Go, Bernadette to his mother, Diane, who died while the work was in rehearsal stages. He reminisced about her creative mind and how she taught her children different crafts. It seems a fitting tribute.

Random: The director spoke of the difficulty they had with the shoot in Greenland; two cameramen were sent to Antarctica for some of the establishing shots, but otherwise Greenland stood in for the cold continent. The ship holding the filmmaker and crew was stuck for 36 hours in a hurricane!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is currently playing in theaters nationwide.

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