By Laurie Coker
There is nothing blissful about Bliss, a convoluted sci-fi drama starring Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson. Writer/director Mike Cahill’s overly dark – thematically and visually – story of one man’s life in and out of reality plays out like a bad LSD trip and a messy rom-com simultaneously. A truly crazy blend of a science fiction fantasy and love-story, Bliss might have been something good, but this director fumbles his delivery terribly.
Wilson plays Greg, a man who tanks his marriage with infidelity, is fired from a job because he is simply terrible at it and sits on the edge rocky relationship with his daughter. His son has already given up on his dad, because he makes so many excuses for his behavior he can’t keep the stories straight. His actions directly after his firing and every step after that are questionable and we are drawn in to a muddled mess that includes Isabel (Hayek), a gypsy-esque homeless woman who seems to have super powers.
Bliss is existential nonsense that at some points might be about love and at others prescription drug abuse, or maybe it is about broken relationships and second chances. Isabel encourages Greg to ingest special crystals with her that move them into an alternate space and time where the story becomes even more confusing and frankly, dull. Even as Greg comes to terms with the real reality, a palatial world first represented in his detailed doodles, he struggles at the thought of losing his daughter completely, and we struggle, as an audience, to care.
Cahill falters in the too much explanation department – details come on like meteors and most of them detract from the story rather than help develop it. It is all just too weird and disorganized even for science fiction and Wilson and Hayek lack the on-screen chemistry to successfully carry such over-weighted dribble. Stoner-goofball better suits Wilson and Hayek, while perfectly suited as a disheveled wild woman, flounders in the sea of unintelligent bland drivel.
Deep inside of Bliss, there might be a decent film, but lofty intentions do not a quality film make. Cahill’s thematic intentions never rise to the top well or long enough to matter. Should we seek alternative realities by some means or the other rather than exist to our best abilities in this world? In Bliss, only Greg’s daughter ties him to his real-world and vague story-telling makes for a head-scratching finale. It earns an F in the grade book.