Richard Linklater on the challenges of adapting Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Ahead of a special early screening this week at the AFS Cinema in Austin, Texas, the filmmaker weighed in on the current conversation about how of smaller, character-driven films are losing ground to big franchises in movie theaters. “It’s tough. It’s tough. Obviously, the deck is stacked against these kinds of films theatrically. If you’re not a franchise, if you’re not a superhero, there’s not a lot of bandwidth left for these kinds of films. It’s a challenge, but every now and then there’s a film that people want to go to.”
As far as these non-franchise films that people might want to go see, Where’d You Go Bernadette has a lot going for it. In addition to directing, Linklater co-wrote the screenplay with Holly Gent and Vince Palmo, which is based on Maria Semple’s best-selling novel of the same name. It also stars Cate Blanchett as the eponymous Bernadette, a once-promising architect and current family matriarch who goes missing just before a family vacation.
“You read the book and you go, ‘Wow, that doesn’t scream out movie,’ but I have that affliction where everything I read I think, ‘How could this be a movie?’ I’m just stuck with that,” Linklater admits. “This one was a particular challenge to say the least, given its epistolary format, but, always up for a big storytelling challenge within this big character piece. Of all the stories in the world floating around all the stories hitting us all the time, it’s hard to say exactly what is it about a story that makes you want to dedicate years of your life to try to get it to the screen. It was just one of those, I guess.”
Even with the decked stacked against films like Where’d You Go Bernadette, there is something universal about the character’s plight to escape the mundanity she’s resigned herself to over the past 20 years, which Linklater hopes will help appeal to audiences.
“I think that’s a fantasy for so many adults, in particular parents,” Linklater says. “Maybe particularly moms who feel a lot more embedded in the family… relied upon. There’s just something primal about just going ‘Screw it,’ and leaving. It’s not just our relations and our obligations that hem us in, it’s the connectedness of the world. She dumps her phone even when she leaves for Antarctica. That’s kind of telling. She’s disconnecting from everything.”
Ultimately, the filmmaker isn’t sure how the film will do theatrically, but he entertained at least one possible theory.
“You just hope [moms] want to go see it instead of taking their families to Fast and Furious. You never know. The movie is about a woman’s sublimating her needs or desires for others, so maybe that’s a metaphor right there. The women who this film was made for will still take everybody Fast and Furious.”
Where’d You Go, Bernadette is out in theaters now.