Released: 5th February
Seen: 8th February
Have you ever noticed how there are some movies that think they’re saying something smart, but’re in fact the dumbest pieces of shit you’ve ever seen? You know the kind of movie where you can almost hear the film theory teachers bouncing with excitement because they’ll get to show it to a class of bored 20 year olds who don’t get what’s so special about the film (because there’s nothing special about it) but want to pass so they make something up? The cinematic equivalent of a guy who wears glasses because he thinks it makes him look smart? Well, whatever list of films you just thought of, you can throw Bliss onto the list because this film really wants you to think that it’s brilliant but that would imply that it’s even worthy of thought.
Bliss is the tale of Greg Wittle (Owen Wilson), who works at a tech company called Technical Difficulties (because coming up with a creative business name is hard) until today when he’s suddenly getting fired by the big boss. As he goes to leave, standing up sharply from his seated spot, he accidentally knocks over his boss and kills him but don’t worry because that accidental homicide won’t actually affect the rest of the movie, that might be interesting. He runs over the road to a pub (like all good accidental murderers, he doesn’t just RUN) and bumps into Isabel Clemens (Salma Hayek) who pulls a Morpius on him and tells Greg that the world they’re in is a simulation.
This leads to Greg and Isabel being homeless and doing drugs and lighting candles magically and making people in roller skating rinks fall over because this world isn’t real so why should they care about other people? At some point Isabel proves that she wasn’t lying by pulling them out of the fake bad world and into the real one, which kind of looks like the Playboy mansion only with better hygiene protocols. Of course things go wrong, yada yada yada, can I please have your biggest hammer so I may hit myself in the head until this movie no longer occupies space in my brain because this amount of boring bullshit might actually cause some form of physical damage.
I hate to use the word pretentious to describe a film because that will often lead to the response of “Oh you just didn’t get it” but… god damn Bliss is pretentious. It tries to be a story about appreciating what you have in the real world and does this by having the main character go through hardship in the fake world. The problem, of course, is that I know a hundred people in my postcode who would literally kill to live in a palatial mansion like the one that Greg and Isabel live in in the ‘real world’. They have no reason to want for anything, they have no actual hardships other than the ones they create so they can better appreciate the riches they have, it’s the one percent doing digital poverty porn so they feel better about being the one percent and it’s obscene.
Then there’s the part about how most of this was done infinitely better back in the 90s when it was called The Matrix. For crying out loud, you are doing a story where most of it apparently takes place in a digital simulation and the main character finds out about it and the absolute best you can come up with to show that this world isn’t real are basic visual effects that I saw on Bewitched reruns? You have to give me something to latch onto here and since the story is a mess and the message is stupid can I at least have something interesting visually? Nope, I can’t have anything because this film offers nothing? OK, fine.
What hurts is that the actors in this are fine. Owen Wilson basically delivers the exact thing you expect from him and I could almost see it working with a good writer handing him a story where his strange natural charm works. The big waste here is Salma Hayek who should be getting big meaty roles in blockbusters, but instead her considerable talents are wasted on this. She’s putting everything she’s got and then some into this part, trying like nobody’s business to sell the stupidity that she’s been tasked with selling and my heart just breaks for her because she shouldn’t need to do this film. Come on Salma, you have The Eternals AND The Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife coming out, you’ll be fine, you don’t need to be wasted on this amateur hour bullcrap.
Bliss is like that film student who saw David Lynch once when he was eight years old and tried to recreate it from memory, except the director of this saw The Matrix and never understood it but wanted to do his own version (Guy works in computers, runs into outsider who could just be crazy, learns the world is faked, involves ingesting of brightly coloured tablets, it’s all there), It’s not interesting or funny or even that smart, though it would be so happy if you would just pretend that it’s the smartest and best film around. Well, it’s not. It’s a boring nonsensical film that doesn’t have a reason to exist beyond maybe explaining to the IRS why a bunch of producers wrote off a mansion on their taxes.
Also calling a film this irritating “Bliss” is just the meanest joke you could pull.