Writer/director Richard Linklater returns to theaters with this week’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Based on the book by Maria Semple, the movie stars Cate Blanchett as Bernadette, a wife and mother who has become frustrated by years of being unable to express the artistic side that won her massive acclaim years prior.
To try and restart the creative engines, Bernadette escapes the world of petty feuds with her neighbors and sets out on a journey to Antarctica as a way to rediscover who she is and what excites her.
A teaser poster tries to be a bit too clever, showing the movie’s title as if it’s the beginning of a text conversation asking “Where’d you go, Bernadette?” with a reply, presumably from Bernadette, still pending, marked by the “…” showing she’s still typing.
“Disappearances can be deceiving” the second poster proclaims, explaining further down the design this is “A mysterious comedy” from Linklater. Blanchette’s face, with sunglasses covering her eyes, is seen in front of a paper cut out of mountains, helping to establish that the character is going to go on some sort of journey, especially when combined with the copy. The poster uses a similar look and feel as the cover of Semple’s book, with Bernadette’s face in front of a backdrop of mountain tops.
Becky is surprising her parents at the opening of the first trailer by reminding them of a promise made long ago. Her request is to go to Antarctica, but they’re understandably reluctant. We see more of the family dynamic before Bernadette goes missing, leading everyone on a chase to figure out where she went to and why.
The second trailer from early May shifts the focus to be more on Bernadette herself, showing how she’s unfulfilled by the life that’s developed around her while her daughter worries her mom’s not living up to her full potential. Bernadette takes out her frustrations by terrorizing her neighbor in various ways, a problem that has developed because she’s no longer indulging her creativity. When a new project catches her attention she begins acting out, leading up to her literally running away from her life and to Antarctica and all the challenges it presents. It’s much more clear about relationships and motivations and presents a much better picture of the movie and story.
Online and Social
In addition to the usual batch of marketing materials, the movie’s website has a “Becoming Bernadette” feature that allows visitors to create their own Bernadette, customizing hair, sunglasses and other features in the same style as the cover to the source novel.
Advertising and Promotions
The movie was among those announced by AMC Theaters as part of the first curated under its Artisan Films program to highlight smaller films.
Annapurna put out a video offering the recipe to the “Pink Penguin” cocktail shown in the trailers.
A partnership with Yaymaker encouraged people to visit one of that chain’s locations for a night of painting and other creative expression, in keeping with the movie’s story and themes.
Media and Press
People kind of knew he was shooting a film of some sort but a conversation with The Houston Chronicle confirmed some of the story details while also including a request for stories anyone from the area who was alive around 1969 might have.
Linklater, Blanchette and others were interviewed about how they connected with the source material and more.
Blanchette is slated for a handful of late night and other talk show appearances throughout the week. Emma Nelson, who plays Bernadette’s daughter Becky, also made the media rounds in the last couple weeks.
For a movie that seems to be built around a singular character the marketing never seems to build a strong, identifiable personality of its own. Yes, Blanchette’s Bernadette is out there being as as bold as she can be, but the campaign as a whole seems unable to decide if it’s a wacky family comedy or a dramatic story of a woman rediscovering who she is. There are elements of the story that are introduced and then never addressed again and it never provides a strong call to action for the audience to seize on.
That being said, the way it maintains the branding from the book is a good move, as is putting Blanchette at the forefront of the campaign. It just seems the studio wasn’t sure what to do with a movie that might not be easily placed in a single category. That’s not uncommon with Linklater, who frequently blends genre elements in his stories, but it seems it’s made selling the movie a somewhat difficult proposition.