There’s a great line in Maria Semple’s bestselling book, Where’d You Go, Bernadette: “People like you must create. If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.” It’s a sober warning from Bernadette Fox’s former professor at USC, where the fictional character studied architecture. She goes on to win a MacArthur “genius grant” and makes headlines with an ambitious housing project in Los Angeles. But when the plan goes to sh*t, Bernadette’s career falls with it. She moves with her family to Seattle and pours her creative energy into being a wife and mother.
Most single 20-somethings today get to live on their own time. (It’s been well-documented by now that Millennials, compared to previous generations, are “delaying or foregoing marriage and have been somewhat slower in forming their own household,” according to the Pew Research Center.) But with age comes obligation: spouses, kids, aging parents. Passions start to feel indulgent when there are swim classes to sign up for, back-to-school supplies to buy, and in-laws to go visit.
“As a parent, as a woman, as someone who’s got a lot of creative energy myself—and yet I really love my husband and my family—I realize how isolated you can get in the family unit,” says Cate Blanchett, who stars as Bernadette Fox in Where’d You Go, Bernadette, in theaters this Friday. In real life, Blanchett has four children between the ages of 18 and 4 years old with her husband, playwright Andrew Upton. Over hot tea and lemon, Blanchett tells me that Bernadette is really a woman who has been through “massive failure” (maybe even more-so than Blanchett’s self-described “monumental failure” at turning her family vegetarian).
To the untrained eye, Bernadette Fox is anti-social. Tightly wound. High-strung. But to those who know—mothers, women of all kinds—she is just trying to get through the damn day. As the film’s director Richard Linklater put it: “People portray Bernadette as crazy, but she’s not crazy at all. The world is crazy.”
Bernadette Fox had to learn the hard way—her husband tried to stick her in a mental institution, so she fled to Antarctica—how to reconnect with herself after 12 years of devoted motherhood. But in case you’re up for a fast pass, the Where’d You Go, Bernadette cast teamed up with Prevention.com on a four-step self-care love fest. Below, you’ll find inspiring life advice from all the major players in the movie. Read ’em, and walk away ready to create more of the life you want.
Devin is Prevention.com’s executive editor and has written everything from deeply reported features to well-curated gift guides (if she does say so herself).