October 20, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

‘Bliss’ review: Owen Wilson, Salma Hayek star in sci-fi drama

Convoluted doesn’t begin to describe the sci-fi drama “Bliss,” which starts off intriguingly enough but loses its way once it attempts to explain itself, before surprising us entirely in the end — and not in a particularly satisfying way. How this loopy film got made may prove its biggest mystery.

The effectively nerve-racking opening finds Greg (Owen Wilson), a generic executive with a generic IT firm, mentally unraveling and accidentally killing his boss. This incident leads him to connect with Isabel (Salma Hayek), an enigmatic street person with telekinetic powers (thanks to a drug she calls “the yellows”). Isabel soon pronounces Greg her “soulmate” and tries to convince him that they are in a computer simulation — they are real, but most everyone else is not. As if Greg didn’t start off his day confused enough.

At the mid-point, a noseful of blue crystals sends the lovers into a utopian world in which they are respected doctors involved in boundary-pushing experiments (Greg has apparently invented something called a “thought visualizer” — long story). Lots of other arcane words and theories are tossed around, “Science Guy” Bill Nye weighs in, and you can practically see the wheels coming off the narrative bus.

In the meantime, the recently divorced Greg’s worried teenage daughter (Nesta Cooper) tries to track him down but gets curiously caught in the is-she-real-or-unreal business as well.

Writer-director Mike Cahill (“Another Earth,” “I Origins”) takes earnest stabs at big ideas and themes, including the concept of “bliss,” but never clearly or cogently enough to draw us in on an emotional or intellectual level. Kasra Farahani’s vivid production design and Markus Förderer’s deft cinematography are at least visual plusses.

‘Bliss’

Rated: R for drug content, language, some sexual material and violence

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Playing: Available Feb. 5 on Amazon Prime