Richard Linklater to Direct Where’d You Go, Bernadette

By  · Published on February 26th, 2015

Photo by Katie Baldock, via Flickr

Whether or not he eventually tackles anymore sequels, be they spiritual or official canon, Richard Linklater is likely to first make a movie of someone else’s devise. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the recent Oscar nominee is in talks to direct Where’d You Go, Bernadette, an adaptation of the best selling 2012 novel by Maria Semple.

Everything seems to be set up and ready for Linklater to just take this as a ready to film project. Very different from the ambitiously long shoot of Boyhood and the also-personal That’s What I’m Talking About, a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused hitting theaters this year. A script is already complete, via the hot duo Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who gave us (500) Days of Summer and The Fault in the Stars.

Megan Ellison is shepherding the movie through her beloved Annapurna Pictures, partnering with producers Nina Jacobson (The Hunger Games) and Bradford Simpson (Diary of a Wimpy Kid). They won a bidding war on the rights to the book a few years ago and have likely been working hard on how to translate its clever manner of epistolary storytelling, which includes various documents and email correspondence in addition to its first-person narrative to carry the plot along.

That plot involves a mother who goes missing after her teenage daughter – the narrator – gets straight A’s on her report card and the family plans a trip to Antarctica as her reward. There’s a lot more to it than my basic synopsis indicates, but all that’s important is the book is “hysterical,” according to none other than the New York Times’ Janet Maslin. Semple, a former TV writer who earned an Emmy nomination for Mad About You and later worked on Arrested Development, sounds even more suited to literature.

But is it a good fit for Linklater? It doesn’t really sound like his sort of thing, but maybe he’s out for a new challenge. Or maybe he’s not looking for a challenge by taking on something he’s less involved with from the start. His live-action adaptations (Me and Orson Welles; Fast Food Nation) tend not to be as memorable as those movies he writes himself. Still, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is possibly too big a property for this thing to be allowed to be one of the filmmaker’s lesser efforts.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.