FEBRUARY 3RD, 2021
STARRING: OWEN WILSON, SALMA HAYEK, NESTA COOPER, MADELINE ZIMA
DIRECTED BY: MIKE CAHILL
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Bliss is another original cut from director Mike Cahill. The director of Another Earth and I Origins never stops using his mind and he wants the audience to use theirs as well. That inventive streak makes for a great director, not because his ideas are always hits- Another Earth is awesome and I Origins did not entirely work for me- but because he’s doing something different than anyone else. Directors like this turn out better work because they have an impressive talent and with Bliss Cahill has another winner. This time he’s going into the minds of all humans. He’s figuring out how the brain can push us into a different state of reality. Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek star as a couple roaming the streets of Los Angeles, both under the belief that the world they are living in is a simulation. Is what they experience in their heads? Is this a far off future that we are waiting for? Or is it more than all of that? Those questions are answered in various interpretations. Which is why Bliss is an inventive expression of science fiction, bending the concept of reality, twisting before our own eyes, in a unique and fascinating way.
An interesting thing while watching Bliss was that it had me contemplating if Owen Wilson was a good actor. I think Bliss is some of his best work. The problem I see is that he’s never not Owen Wilson. It’s not even his fault. The actor known for his “wow’s” is always solid, but he’s always just Owen Wilson. In Bliss, he’s playing Greg Wittle, working at a marketing firm, recently divorced, and hoping to smooth things over with his daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper) at her college graduation. It’s evident things are not great for Greg. He’s daydreaming, drawing images of a mysterious woman he’s seen in dreams and he’s on the verge of being fired from his job. Then something weird happens: before he is fired, his boss hits his head on his desk and dies, and then Greg is covering it up, attempting to get out of one messed up moment after the next. He meets Isabel (Hayek), the woman he’s had visions of, and she shows Greg the power to prove that this life is not real. All of it is a simulation. With a flick of the wrist you can push a man out a window or force the bartender to give you a drink. None of this is happening. Or so they think.
One of the cool factors about Bliss is the momentum of the narrative and the aesthetic of the settings. Cahill has made a movie that is worthy of watching a second time, where you might have missed extras disappearing in the background, glitches in the way this “simulation” is being conducted, or hints that the reality is being manipulated by Isabel. What the reality could be is that Isabel and Greg are both homeless, living an unhealthy relationship in a homeless village under a highway overpass. Isabel shares a yellow crystal pill that elevates their powers to mess with the simulation. This could also be a drug they’re addicted to. It could be giving them new super powers. What the reality is of Bliss is that nothing is certain.
A part of Cahill’s writing that should be up for debate is his interpretation on mental health, addiction, and homelessness. At first glance, I thought he was using the downtrodden as a device to make science fiction, but it would be wrong to think this is The Matrix. There’s more science than the fiction. Cahill cares about the mental state of his characters, he reveals deep details about these characters in minor points, and why their minds have been changed over the years. The third act turns into Isabel revealing they are connected to a device, creating their ugly world, but in reality it is a utopia, where Greg and Isabel sit by an ocean sunset, and enjoy life virtually. As Greg begins to see the clues, peel the layers of what is actually going on, he must try to get back to where his mind originally started.
Above all, Bliss is incredibly original, with both Wilson and Hayek making a unique pair to take this cerebral trip with. Cahill continues to use his knowledge and directing strengths to weave a movie that works as an episode of The Twilight Zone and also a sociological study of humans. Bliss may be a movie that fuels more people to believe that reality is a dream, a state of mind, or a simulation we all experience differently. Bliss is also a mind-bending drama that challenges audiences to think beyond what they see in front of them. Life can be euphoric and it can also be an entertaining moment of Bliss.
BLISS IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON PRIME FRIDAY FEBRUARY 5TH
Written by: Leo Brady