SYNOPSIS: An unfulfilled man (Owen Wilson) and a mysterious woman (Salma Hayek) believe they are living in a simulated reality, but when their newfound ‘Bliss’ world begins to bleed into the ‘ugly’ world they must decide what’s real and where they truly belong.
In Bliss, we find the usually comical Owen Wilson outside his comfort zone and into a reality-bending world with Salma Hayek. For the most part, Bliss contains interesting ideas and concepts from The Matrix to Inception but yet fails to deliver anything beyond mere mumbo-jumbo.
Greg Wittle (Wilson) is a broken man right from the start. He is divorced, struggling to keep his job and daydreams about a coastal retreat and a mysterious woman. After a violent outburst which incidentally caused the death of his boss, Greg met an eccentric woman, Isabel (Hayek) at a bar who told him he is actually living in a simulated world and she possessed telekinetic powers as well.
Things get weirder when Isabel introduced Greg to another “world” where they are indeed a real-life couple and Isabel is an esteemed scientist working on a scientific experiment called the brain box. Greg on the other hand is confused and can’t seem to recall this version of the world but he is more than content living here. His only concern is his love for his daughter, Emily (Nesta Cooper) who has been searching high and low for her missing dad.
The scripting and direction by Mike Cahill seem to leave viewers confused and muddled rather than mesmerized by his mind-bending material. Is he trying to link mental illness and drug addiction to the strange crystals taken by Greg and Isabel? Is this supposed to be some kind of mystifying metaphor? What is real and what is not? The simulated world is filled with homeless people and hookers while the rich and powerful resides in reality. Outrageous.
Interestingly, there seems to be no serious consequences in the simulated world. Greg and Isabel have the cool abilities to flip over anyone for example in a rollerskating ring. The dead can be revived again after the system is reboot. The simulation is so real that Emily is desperately trying to reconnect with her estranged dad although her brother doesn’t seem to care much. Probably it’s just a glitch.
It’s good that Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek is playing against type here. Both are pretty likeable as a couple. Frustratingly, the concept wears off pretty fast that despite the cast’s strong performances, they are unable to deliver any real-depth or sleekness out of Cahill’s meandering narrative. It’s crammed with so many provocative ideas but Cahill is content in letting his two leading stars on auto-pilot mode. Comedian Ronny Chieng has a small role as well because why not? In the simulated world, anything goes.
Bliss is one pretentious hollow sci-fi flick. It never delivers anything adequate or live up to its promise especially the ambiguous ending. Red pill or blue pill? You decide.
Review by Linus Tee