In this ‘review,’ I’m not going to make it easy for you to understand what ‘Bliss’ is about, and I mean to keep it that way.
I want you going in blissfully unaware of what you’re about to experience so that you don’t judge it before you get there. Briefly, it’s about a man who can’t handle reality, so he creates his own; in every capacity one can, both mentally and physically. In fact, he seems to enter another dimension, one that’s perfect in every way except one. To stay there, he has to give up what he knows to be true, his children. As he loosens his grip on the real world, his daughter, who refuses to give up on him, fades in and out of his memory and is replaced with what he can control. Having said that, I ask of you to prepare yourself for an Owen Wilson, Salma Hayek movie about two worlds becoming one without any expectations. Bill Nye makes an appearance, which is a real pleasure when you consider why he’s there, but overall, ‘Bliss’ is a complete puzzle. Then again, that’s what makes it exciting, if exciting is the correct word to use here.
Directed by ‘I Origins’ director Mike Cahill, this science fiction romance novel come to life is a mess, but an intended one, and in a good way. Mike Cahill definitely knows his way around a psyche. The actual test is in your abilities as a member of his audience. Do you have the patience that allows time for his endeavors here to unfold and reveal themselves? I say all this because what you’re seeing isn’t exactly what you’re seeing… or is it? There. I did it again. Another loose end to tighten up. He does this repeatedly in the movie. It all comes down to one big question. Is it or isn’t it real?
Is someone in a mental institution dreaming all of this up? Are there drugs involved? Is this a book playing out in someone’s mind? Is what you’re watching a dream? That’s what I found myself enjoying most about the movie. I had no idea. It was the most peculiar film I think I’ve ever seen. Did I give too much away too soon? I hope not, but there it is. Best not to pay attention to what others think of this, honestly. Let it simply happen to you, and you’ll come out the other end, having loved it or not. Your reasons will be your own.
Owen Wilson is the main character, Greg Wittle, who seems to keep us more or less tethered to reality. Of course, when you’re sure of that, you can’t be too confident. He goes about his daily life at work, and you can relate to him when suddenly things aren’t going so well. He can’t stop dreaming of, and consequently, can’t stop drawing, his dream home. Mere minutes into the film, his lack of interest in his real job gets him in trouble with his boss, which is a blessing and a curse, especially when he meets off the grid Isabel Clemens, played by the enchanting Salma Hayek. Word of warning. Within this short time frame and just after being introduced to Isabel, you’ll already be off-kilter, not sure which way is up and which way down, but Hayek herself makes the ride that much more fascinating.
Meeting Greg in a bar, she is to become his guru. The answer to all his questions. She starts speaking to him of specific crystals that have the energy to heal what ails him. They have the power to ‘manipulate this fake world.’ Fake world? What? The world looks real enough. Greg’s children Emily, played by Nesta Cooper (The Edge of Seventeen, See), and Arthur, played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr., (Spider-Man: Far from Home, Bumblebee) are physical proof of his existence to a degree. It seems they enter the movie to be just that, something for Greg and the audience to cling to as factual verification of life. Isabel takes Greg on a journey into a simulation. Maybe life in that simulation is stimulating and secure, but it isn’t practical, and his children aren’t there. Common sense is what they need him to hold onto, or they may lose him, and he loses them, as well as everything else, forever.
*BLISS streams exclusively on Amazon Prime on 2/5.
Director: Mike Cahill
Writers: Mike Cahill
Stars: Salma Hayek, Owen Wilson, Nesta Cooper, Madeline Zima, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Ronny Chieng, Steve Zissis
Genres: Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi