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Film Review: Bliss

Director:    Mike Cahill

Cast:    Owen Wilson, Salma Hayek, Nesta Cooper, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr., Ronny Chieng, Steve Zissis, Josh Leonard, Madeline Zima, Bill Nye

Rating:    MA

Running Time:    103

Australian Distributor:    Amazon Prime


Bliss stars big names Selma Hayek and Owen Wilson. The film is a sci-fi drama with romantic implications that follows Greg (Wilson) recovering from a recent divorce and dealing with a mental health crisis, as he, fuelled by drugs and encouraged by his manic new friend, awakens his mind to the possibility of a new world, one in which he is a player in a simulation and his return to the “real” world is just a matter of shooting crystals up his nose.

It’s a quite well-acted simulation movie, with an obvious, even hackneyed story, but good performances by Owen Wilson (Greg) and Salma Hayek (Isabel) make it worthwhile, with an appearance by Bill Nye the science guy, and excellent music, especially a really beautiful, captivating song under the closing credits, written by Will Bates and sung by Skye Edwards. 

Just to be clear: Bliss is no Matrix, not even close, but Matrix, the first movie in particular, is the best simulation movie ever made, which touches almost all of the bases and invents some while it’s at it.  Bliss, in contrast, asks us once again what is real and what is simulation, and likely doesn’t even provide an answer in the end, unless that answer is both are real, which is something we’ve also seen before.

Greg and Isabel make an effective, even memorable couple, with Hayek giving one of her really good performances.  Isabel apparently is from the simulated, drug induced, or whatever engendered world, and she’s ultimately in competition with Greg’s daughter, who wants him back and with her in what presumably is the real world.   

“Bliss” feels like something that sounds really good as a concept but that doesn’t quite pan out on screen.  The ending does seem somewhat open-ended while it also has a very finite feel to it. I kept waiting for an end-credit scene that never came.

However, I did really enjoy both the bold and crazy ways of the Isabel character played by Salma Hayek. She is perfectly cast in this movie. As is Owen Wilson as Greg, so I can’t falter the casting of this movie. I would have preferred an ending that stayed in the sci-fi genre rather than move away from this, which I definitely felt like Bliss did.

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