Cate Blanchett has given a number of incredible performances throughout her career, whether she's playing figures from history or fantasy. From her portrayals of Elizabeth I and Katharine Hepburn to Galadriel and Hela, Blanchett always seems to preternaturally inhabit every role she takes on. Her latest vessel is Bernadette Fox in Where'd You Go, Bernadette, an architect who abandons her day-to-day life in pursuit of reigniting her creative passion. But is Bernadette Fox based on a real creatively stunted architect?
Where'd You Go, Bernadette is based on the book of the same name by Maria Semple, which was published and became a huge hit in 2012. The novel tells the story of the fictional Bernadette Fox, a once-successful architect who gives up her career after having her daughter. As a consequence, over the years she becomes reclusive and agoraphobic, as she does not work in her field for nearly two decades. Then, on the cusp of taking a family trip to Antarctica with her daughter and husband, Bernadette disappears. The bulk of the novel is about her daughter's efforts to locate her, and it's eventually discovered that she left to pursue a challenging new architectural endeavor in Antarctica.
While the film's plot is expected to differ somewhat, the main beats — and more importantly, the theme — remain the same. The heart of the story is a creative person who has gone too long without expressing her creativity or being challenged, which has resulted in her unhappiness. That theme is part of what drew director Richard Linklater to the project, as he believes it's something that will resonate with all creative people. "The notion of an artist who's not making their art — (that's something) which haunts every artist," the director told NPR. "Creativity thwarted is probably the most toxic thing in the world. You know, the artist thwarted is lethal."
Blanchett also identified with the character she portrays, in more ways than one. In addition to the struggle between personal creative exploits and family life, there is also the pressure parents feel when they are faced with starting a new chapter once their children enter adulthood. "I think it's a portrait of a marriage, and of a family, as much as it is about a creative journey," the actor told NPR. "I think that there's a point that a lot of people could connect to in their own relationships: As one person's career is taking off, another one is stepping back — and then how do you reenter the thing that you meant to be doing, which is creating and making something? And how do you juggle that with letting your child go? Because apart from her being a creative force, Bernadette's also someone who is incapable of entering the next chapter of her life. And I think that a lot of people — whether they're fathers or mothers — find that really difficult."
There's also a lot of her creator in Bernadette, though they have very different careers. Semple told The New York Times that she identifies with Bernadette in a lot of ways — particularly the way she feels about a certain level of Seattle society.
She's almost an entirely fictional creation, but wherever you live and whatever you create, the way Bernadette struggles with figuring out what she really wants out of life is something everyone should be able to recognize.