Where'd You Go, Bernadette ★★★

Ungainly in many ways (inconsistent in tone, unconvincing in locale, contrived in its plotting), Where’d You Go, Bernadette manages two stellar sequences that are raw and truthful enough to salvage the movie. Cate Blanchett plays the title character, a once-heralded architect now mired in a middle life of sputtering artistic impulse, social anxiety, and encroaching depression. Watching her decline are her middle-school daughter (Emma Nelson) and tech-titan husband (Billy Crudup). The movie is as scattered as its subject—the rinky-dink score is unforgivable—but a blow-up between Bernadette and her meddling neighbor (Kristen Wiig) is a visceral and cathartic stripping away of upper-class niceties, a wake-up call sent in two directions at once. Later, there’s a beautiful parallel sequence in which Bernadette unloads her troubles on a former colleague at the same time that her husband shares his concerns about her with a therapist. Blanchett is a tour de force here (as she was in the similarly themed and uneven Blue Jasmine), while Crudup carries a real sense of sorrow (a bit more culpability would also have been nice). The scene nicely sets the stage for a genuinely inspiring finale, which offers a portrait of marriage in which partners aren’t meant to be soul mates who complete each other, but cheerleaders who give each person the space, opportunity, and support to be their best self. In adapting Maria Semple’s 2012 novel, director Richard Linklater frequently seems hamstrung by the material (he shares screenplay credit with Holly Gent and Vince Palmo), but he’s too good of an observer of human relationships to drop the ball when it counts.