“My heart started racing, not the bad kind of heart racing, like I’m going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like, Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I’m about to kick the shit out of life.” — Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Damn the critics. This film is worth watching. Not because it is going to win an Oscar – it’s not. No, the story, the epistolary novel which inspired the film, is too complex and the film had to be simplified too much from the satirical novel in order to interest a general audience, but it is a film worth watching (better yet, a book worth reading).
Why? To offer a glimpse to others and reassurance and encouragement to still more to help deepen an understanding that when we refuse to believe something beyond our comprehension or ability to understand something we do not have experience with, we suppress the awesome talent that is misunderstood in another in order to “encourage” adaption to what society deems as “okay”. When such talent is suppressed, we actually do harm to everyone, especially the individual we refuse to set free.
Bernadette’s genius is beyond what most of society would understand, and her weakness is not being able to communicate in a way others not like her would find relatable (read the author’s interview on her inspiration for the character). But it shouldn’t be her responsibility solely to strengthen her understanding to work with those we don’t understand. It is everyone’s.
I became irritated by reviewers from Variety and Roger and Ebert who described the film character Bernadette as having “issues”, being “self-centered” and “[not offering] enough [pathos] to explain or absolve Bernadette’s actions”. Certainly, there is not enough time for viewers to understand her pain of her journey to motherhood and her struggle of seeing her art destroyed for a parking lot and the land it sat upon, subsequently, silencing her talent to raise her child with what the film projects as an absent father who was busy pursuing his passion. But pathos enough there was if anyone in the audience has ever felt misunderstood or pigeon-holed because their talents were not understood by society or they were not being supported by those closest to them in their lives. Multiply a single day, month or year of being subjected to such marginalization and tack on two decades, and there is more than enough sufficient pathos.
We may not all understand Bernadette, and yes, the acute exaggeration is intentional, but the talent that resides in each of us when suppressed, while it may not always be a menace, will look for other ways to busy itself, and often such ways aren’t constructive.
Whether you yourself want to feel your heart race in all of the right ways that will ignite your life, or you see that someone else has more of themselves to give if only they would receive the encouragement or support, set yourself, set them free. And in so doing, the destructive becomes constructive.
May you find the courage to step forward, or “run away” as Bernadette did but in your own way, and honor that part of you that is unique because the world needs it to be brought forth.
6 thoughts on “Set Your Heart Free to Race”
I just finished the book last night and am looking forward to seeing the movie. The book is so complex and Bernadette so multi faceted that I hope I won’t be disappointed.
I do think that the movie cannot fully contain all that book shares. And that’s not necessarily a fault of the film as the director is highly regarded – Richard Linklater who was also a co-screenwriter. It was just a very difficult task. I saw that María Semple was also an executive producer in the film, so did have some say or at least an investment in the film. Cate Blanchette did well and Emma Nelson who plays Bee was a delight.
Two friends and I saw the movie this past weekend. Two of us loved it, related to it, was moved by it, so glad we got to see it & the third one seemed totally mystified by it-totally did not get it. I thought Cate Blanchette did an excellent job & Emma Nelson too.
Bev, Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I found myself in tears at the end – tears of relief and celebration. Yes, Cate Blanchette really did a wonderful job in a complex role.
I’m sad to see the critics did not like it. I read the book two weeks ago with no knowledge it has been made into a film. At the time of reading it I was a bit unsure and didn’t really ‘ understand it’ but it has been on my mind since and isn’t that the sign of a good book or story- that it makes you think?
Tara, Great point – the sign of a good book is that it lingers. 🙂