Aug 16

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette”: Film from Book

An artist must create. If she doesn’t, she will become a menace to society. Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette 

When interviewed for Psychology Today in 2013 by Jennifer Haupt, author Maria Semple gave the above quote as the “One True Thing” she learned from writing certain lead characters in her satiric novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

What’s the book about? The most frequently repeated and most concise description comes from a New York Times review excerpt: “A misanthropic matriarch leaves her eccentric family in crisis when she mysteriously disappears…”

Janet Maslin, The New York Times, takes this further: “The tightly constructed WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is written in many formats-e-mails, letters, F.B.I. documents, correspondence with a psychiatrist and even an emergency-room bill for a run-in between Bernadette and [neighbor] Audrey. Yet these pieces are strung together so wittily that Ms. Semple’s storytelling is always front and center, in sharp focus.”

Apparently, however, the new movie adaptation may not live up to expectations—it’s getting an awful lot of disappointing reviews.

Richard Linklater‘s new film stars Cate Blanchett as Bernadette, who has been disconnected from herself for quite some time. Benjamin Lee, The Guardian:

Bernadette (Blanchett) is uneasy with her life and with life in general. She’s semi-agoraphobic, choosing time with family in her crumbling, extravagant, ever-dripping home rather than the risk of encountering the horror of other people and ‘the banality of life’. Her tech bro husband (Billy Crudup) is worried about her descent into pill-popping madness while her daughter, Bee (Emma Nelson), hopes that a family trip to Antarctica will help bring them all together.

Slight spoiler ahead: Of interest to this blog is Bernadette’s husband trying to get her help. In the book there’s an “attempt to stage an intervention that would place Bernadette in a mental health facility. In another satisfying moment of comeuppance the movie omits, Dr. Kurtz winds up tendering a letter of resignation after the chain of events make it clear that intervention never should have happened the way it did” (Samantha Vincently, Oprahmag).

The Trailer: Meet Bernadette’s teenage daughter Bee and husband, a Microsoft genius. Supporting characters include Kristen Wiig (the annoying Audrey), Laurence Fishburne, Megan Mullally, and Judy Greer as Dr. Kurtz, director of a mental health treatment facility.

Selected Reviews

Elizabeth Weltzman, The Wrap: “Not an ideal match for the source material, but those who arrive without any preconceptions – or are willing to stray from the novel’s style – will appreciate the assets of a modestly engaging and gently touching dramedy.”

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: “Amusing and sleepy pretty much describe this movie…”

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: “If the family dynamics feel perfunctory and too-neatly resolved by the end…Blanchett’s nuanced portrayal of stymied creativity, exacting taste and sensibilities too bold and well-judged for an uncaring world manages to be funny and uncompromising in equal measure. In her capable hands, Bernadette Fox doesn’t wind up being likable — a quality Bernadette would surely detest — but she’s worthy of love all the same.”

Mar 22

Missing Adults: Runaways, Pseudocides

When things in life get too rough many responsible people throw up their hands and declare, “I just want to run away.” But who in fact do become the missing adults? Because most reconsider, realizing the dire consequences should they actually ignore those responsibilities they’re currently loathing.

Sophie LaphamThe Guardian: “Whether adults go missing intentionally or unintentionally, there is almost always vulnerability involved.”

Research conducted by the Universities of Glasgow and Dundee several years ago regarding the phenomenon of missing persons revealed that 36% were adults, 75% of which had diagnosed mental health problems (Independent). The latter statistic may indicate that many cases involved less than fully intentional or rational motives.

Unlike many runaway teens, adults who flee often try to devise a find-me-proof plan. Interestingly, most interviewed for the UK research didn’t go far from home but hid relatively nearby: “For the majority of adults, their journeys involved staying local and visiting familiar places. The risks for some adults was balanced by the recognition that ‘if I had gone somewhere I didn’t know, it would have been a lot harder to get through the next few days because I wouldn’t know where anything was’.”

From the University of Glasgow site: “The journeys are very stressful and although people may not know they are officially reported as missing, they realise someone may be trying to trace them. Many are unsure what will happen to them if they are located by the police, with some fearing arrest, and often they are surprised to be treated with sympathy and understanding.”

In this country intentional runners are sometimes referred to as maliciously missing. They are hiding and have reasons they don’t want to be found.

Then there’s the issue of pseudocide, about which Elizabeth Greenwood has a relatively new book. From the publisher’s blurb about Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud (2016): “…[The author] learns that love is a much less common motive than money, and that making your death look like a drowning virtually guarantees you’ll be caught. (Disappearing while hiking, however, is a great way to go.)” notes some other interesting points about missing adults in the U.S. Among them:

  • Minorities, those who suffer from mental disorders, and substance abusers who go missing often receive little attention from authorities and little sympathy from the press or public.
  • In most jurisdictions, missing persons cases receive low priority. Authorities are already working homicides, robberies, rapes, assaults, traffic issues, and crime prevention.
  • According to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), 355,243 women were reported missing in 2010 compared to 337,660 men.
  • Scholars note that the media focuses more on women, especially white women, who go missing because of society’s apparent obsession with “damsels in distress.” In other words, people are interested in cases in which young, beautiful, often blond, girls have been abducted and are in need of rescue. This is called “the missing white woman syndrome.”
  • Frank Ahearn, a skiptracer (a term for people who find others), says that people intentionally go missing for usually two reasons: money or danger. Men usually leave because of money, and women because of danger. While the bulk of intentional disappearances were once men, more and more women now choose to bail out.