BLISS was anything but
My recent viewing of Bliss was anything but. It’s difficult to gather enough words to even talk about this movie, since it does such a poor job of saying what I think it wants to say. I’ll probably spend most of this review trying to process what I just saw, so I’m sorry for that, but here goes... Bliss is a privileged film. It doesn’t contribute anything to the conversation it so desperately wants to be a part of.
All that Bliss has is subtext. My best interpretation is that Bliss is about ignorance. For a movie that’s so heavily reliant on reading between the lines and features two opposite realities, I can’t think of a better analysis than “ignorance is bliss”. Looking at it objectively, what’s on the screen is just meager. Right away all the cards are laid out on the table, and quite frankly, they’re not good cards. I wanted to believe this film had real commentary, a real message about the issues it presents to us, but by the end, I was so confused. Homelessness, drug addiction, poverty, prejudice… All the usual suspects for political commentary are present, but it’s a pointless waiting game to find out if any of this is going to come full circle. It’s like they threw all these ideas at the wall to see what would stick. By the end, I just couldn’t help but wonder what I as the viewer am supposed to learn from this. Anyone who can see this movie has some form of privilege. As an Amazon Studios movie, it’s most readily available to those who can afford the luxury of a Prime subscription. So if all Bliss is saying is that its privileged audience is ignorant, where do we go from here?
Greg, freshly fired from his job, gets the attention of a random lady named Isabel in a bar who claims the world around them is a simulation. He follows her around as they try to figure out which reality they want to live in. Their utopian “real” world and their “fake” world start to blend together, and Greg has to make the decision to remain in one of the realities.
With the most barebones story elements, it’s clear from early on that this movie exists purely as a vehicle for the underlying message. The entire time I was left teetering with the notion their utopia reality is some sort of escape fueled by drugs. We never get the answer because we aren’t meant to, but the whole layout is so convoluted that it left me extremely unsatisfied.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Bliss is not only disappointing in its direction, it’s not helped by the performances either. The only noteworthy ones are Nesta Cooper’s portrayal of Greg’s daughter Emily and Bill Nye’s two minute cameo. I have never considered Owen Wilson or Salma Hayek to be bad actors, but this movie reminded me that not even top notch casting can save a film with a script like this.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
There is an obvious ray of light that shines in every frame when they’re in the “real world” that’s supposed to give an angelic, heavenly touch. It seems like a stylistic choice, but it’s just kind of overused and tacky. The “simulation world” has some really interesting visual ‘glitches’ happening in the background. Now, don’t expect to find out if they have any significance in the story, but visually, the effects are tastefully nuanced. The production design is passable. There’s some really interesting visual mirroring of the two worlds, which is impressive considering the two realities were filmed in LA and Croatia. But again, I wish it had any significance to the story other than a vague easter egg.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The sound design was fine. There’s some cool ambient cityscape sounds that really pull us back into the “simulation world” from the almost dreamlike silence of the “real world.” Other than that, I noticed some really bad dubbing on Owen Wilson at times and extremely uneven sound levels.
Perhaps Bliss is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do and my urge to overanalyze everything is getting in the way of that. Although I hoped for something a lot cleaner, there’s certainly something to unpack. I am interested in hearing what other people interpret from this.
BLISS is now available to stream on Prime Video