The first trailer for Where’d You Go, Bernadette, adapted from a novel by Maria Semple, was released yesterday, and it looks like a standard “quirky family dramedy”. It stars Cate Blanchett as Wacky Mom, Billy Crudup as her seemingly perfect but, I’m guessing, having-an-affair husband, Emma Nelson as her precocious daughter Bee, and Kristen Wiig, Laurence Fishburne, and Judy Greer as other people. It looks fine. But it might be a mess!
I have not read the book, so book readers, tell me if this does or does not match your expectations. (Several people have emailed to ask, because I have never read the latest bestseller being made into a movie, what am I reading? Right now I’m in the middle of a reading project of works by Historical Women Fed Up With Men.) But I’ve heard that Semple has been telling people that she has not been happy with how this movie turned out. She has a background as a TV writer (credits include Ellen, Mad About You, and Suddenly Susan, and she was a producer on Arrested Development), but was not involved in the adapting process, and she could have helped navigate the space between novel and adaptation, as Gillian Flynn did for Gone Girl and Sharp Objects. One person cited Semple’s “dismay” with director Richard Linklater, and said that Semple was invited to help in the editing stage to fix the movie when it didn’t turn out with the first cut. Cate Blanchett was on Semple’s side, and tried to do what she could as an actress to make the film salvageable in editing, so the question is, was Blanchett successful?
But beyond those production difficulties, Bernadette comes from Annapurna, a studio that is in some kind of trouble. There have been some sudden executive departures—never a good sign—and then Annapurna dumped two movies, the Roger Ailes biopic and a movie produced by Jennifer Lopez, and rumors of financial troubles started swirling in October. Buried at the end of a summation of Annapurna’s alleged woes was a note that Where’d You Go, Bernadette was undergoing rounds of testing and being adjusted depending on audience responses (not unusual, but rarely helpful as test audiences are, er, not always on the ball). So the production is having trouble, the studio is having trouble, and the result is this trailer which makes Bernadette look like a typical indie dramedy. Readers, weigh in. Let me know if this looks like what you expect of a Bernadette movie.