By Lynn Venhaus
A hot mess of a movie, “Bliss” travels between reality and computer simulation, but do we ever know what is real? And more importantly, do we care?
A mysterious woman (Salma Hayek) convinces a troubled man (Owen Wilson) that they are living in a simulated reality, but even with chemical enhancement, their newfound merry world begins to bleed into a cruel ugly world. So, what is real and where do they belong?
Owen Wilson is Greg, a glum, recently divorced guy who goofs off at work and takes pills for an undisclosed ailment. His boss has been trying to get his attention, and certainly does when he fires him.
After a shocking development, he meets Salma Hayek’s difficult Isabel across the street in a bar, Plato’s Dive, and for the next hour and a half, we have philosophical drivel, a nonsensical love story and a bizarro world that alternates between utopian and dystopian.
The writer-director Mike Cahill, whose earlier low-budget movies, “Another Earth” and “I Origins,” put him on the indie map, has crafted what started as an ambitious sci-fi into a complex narrative that spirals out of control.
One can’t keep up with intentions – and why would you keep trying – because at every turn, characters leaps into the rabbit hole. They are on the street, then they are in paradise – it’s jarring and jerky.
“Bliss” is more like an abyss. There is so much confusing “Matrix”-like mumbo-jumbo and the main characters are irritating. Hard-shell Isabel is taxing and selfish, her motivations suspect and very often, cruel. She’s more loathsome than lazy Greg, who is just a tool.
And miscast. Wilson and Hayek do nothing for their careers with these unsympathetic roles. When they play with their powers, people get hurt – and that is painful to watch them derive pleasure from it.
Do we ever know the endgame here? “Bliss” is a superficial movie that aimed high, but its concept could not be executed in any believable way. I want 103 minutes of my life back.
“Bliss” is a sci-fi drama written and directed by Mike Cahill, starring Owen Wilson, Salma Hayek, Nesta Cooper and Ronny Chieng. It’s
rated: R for drug content, language, some sexual material and violence, and runs 1 hour, 43 minutes. An Amazon Original movie, it is available on Prime Feb. 5. Lynn’s Grade: F
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.