“Bliss,” released on Feb. 5 on Amazon Prime Video, is a confusing and depressing film about a world in which the main characters are in a computer simulated world and only a select few within it are real.
Seeing these two on screen together is pure Bliss. Really though, the movie is called Bliss and you can watch it now. pic.twitter.com/swmLOFj1uI— Prime Video (@PrimeVideo) February 6, 2021
The film, written and directed by Mike Cahill, is about an average man, Greg Wittle, played by Owen Wilson, who by chance meets a strange woman, Isabel Clemmons, played by Salma Hayek, who has the power to manipulate things with her mind. She and Wittle, who she said is real, can manipulate people, objects, anything really, except apparently those precious few people on Earth who are real.
The rest of the film follows Wittle’s struggle between his love for his daughter, who is apparently not real and Clemmons and the supposedly real world she is from. This is a deceivingly simple synopsis of the plot, and in reality there is so much craziness in the movie that it is impossible to boil it all down to a few sentences.
At one point within the film, the characters begin eating yellow crystals, and they eventually exit the simulation by snorting blue crystals. Wittle crushes a car for no reason, and much more occurs that would possibly give some important plot points away upon explanation. The entire film is whacky and none of it feels related. The aspects will make no more sense at the end of the movie than they do when they first occur. Watching the movie will not make these aspects make any more sense than they do right now.
There are no transition scenes in this movie. It is a collection of seemingly random jump cuts which give the audience absolutely no sense of how much time has passed between scenes. Perhaps this was intentional, but it leaves viewers confused and disoriented. It is impossible to appreciate the plot for what it is because the viewer will spend the whole movie unable to figure out what was even happening.
Wittle and Clemmons have a romantic relationship in the film but, like everything else in this movie, there is no lead-up, context or explanation. They have literally just met at the beginning of the movie and then suddenly they are a couple. They are apparently soulmates from this point on in the film.
It wouldn’t be fair to evaluate any of the actors’ abilities based on this film. The bizarre plot requires such strange and niche performances that it is impossible to determine from this film if they are talented actors or not.
Up until about the half-way point of the film, it felt like the writer was going for a Matrix-esque vibe. Fight scenes and a dramatic exit from the simulation seem to be in the characters’ future. That is not what happened in this film.
When they exit the simulation, it is revealed that Clemmons and Wittle are scientists in a utopian Earth and the simulation is a part of Clemmons’ research. They hope that by providing a taste of what their world could be like, the people of their privileged world will be more appreciative of the bliss they know.
The rest of the film is pure chaos (as if this film could get more chaotic) and leaves viewers without a clue where the plot is going to end up. It cannot be overstated how confusing and disjointed this film was.
To a certain point, it seemed the movie could have been some sort of commentary on drug use, based on the eating and subsequent snorting of crystals which they obtained from shady men in dingy apartments. Then when they enter the “real” world it seems like maybe the movie is meant to be a satire on consumerism and people’s disregard for environmental sustainability. The ending does not clear anything up.
Then there are the two cameos by Bill Nye which serve no purpose other than to make the film feel gimmicky and add to the audience’s confusion. If these instances were an attempt at humor, they most certainly fell flat. This is not a comedic film, so these scenes did seem awkward and forced.
Not only was the film not funny, it was honestly sad. Wittle is recently divorced, gets fired from his job, then finds out his family isn’t even real and proceeds to live for weeks outside, in squalor. Then, even still, his daughter Emily Wittle, played by Nesta Cooper, still spends the entire film searching for him and Clemmons is offended and feels betrayed when Wittle wants to call his daughter.
“Bliss,” is a disjointed, depressing, fever dream of a movie. The audience is left with more questions at the end than they had before even starting the film and this confusing plot overshadowed any good acting or cinematography that may have been present. All around, this film was an utter waste of time.