I review the week’s latest release
Mike Cahill’s Bliss begins with Greg Wittle (Owen Wilson) drawing sketches of his dream home in his office cabin. Initially, it seems he’s suffering from some disorder, as he looks zoned out. But then we realise he’s floating in the placid waters of his dreams.
This self-made inner tranquility of Wittle’s is contrasted by the chaos in the outer office, the main action area of a call centre interestingly and succinctly named ‘Technical Difficulties’.
Wittle’s dream state is interrupted by constant telephonic reminders from the boss through his secretary, insisting on Wittle’s immediate attendance, to which Wittle pays little heed. He continues to perfect the outline of his penciled creations instead of heading out. For those of us accustomed to immediately dashing to the boss’s office at their orders with a belly-flopping heart, Wittle’s deliberate delay is teeth-grinding.
Meanwhile, Wittle also phones for refills of prescription drugs, which are unavailable at the moment. And we discover that his dreamy state is an escape from his wrecked marital life as well.
Wittle eventually heads to the boss’s office (much to our relief), but with a disastrous outcome. A few moments later, he finds himself in the company of a strange woman (Salma Hayek), whose name we later learn is Isabel. Initially, Isabel appears to be a psychic—after making a light fixture flicker, she helps Wittle miraculously dodge the repercussions of the disaster he encountered in his boss’s office.
Realising he’s in the best company given the circumstances, Wittle tags along with Isabel and moves into her shanty. Thus begins a love story where Isabel tells Wittle that they’re the only two on Earth who are real—nothing else is. Not even Wittle’s daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper), who frantically searches for her father when he doesn’t show up for her graduation as promised. Throw in some yellow and blue “crystals” Isabel gets Wittle hooked to, and we know what analogy the movie’s trying to go for.
Bliss is a commentary on the so-called purveyors of bliss—drug peddlers and manufacturers, miracle-cure promisers, even the billion-dollar law-of-attraction industry if you think about it—but it takes some shaky filmmaking for it to come to the point. For most of the movie, we have no idea what’s happening story-wise. It’s only when the penny drops for Wittle towards the end that we take away the film’s message—that life is perfect in its imperfections. Alas, we wonder why it took so long and so many complicated twists for the narrative to reach this simple point.
Bliss is reminiscent of Inception, where, too, it gets difficult to differentiate between reality and otherwise. The novelty of Inception’s concept was bound to leave a lot of us confused. But Inception infused us with the curiosity and inclination to revisit it as many times as we’d want to in the almost 11 years of its release. Bliss, unfortunately, has no such repeat value, not even if we want to fill the holes in our understanding of it. Its storytelling is too draining, too tiresome, with too many unanswered questions in its wake.
For those who watch movies for their takeaways, Bliss is just what you’re seeking. But only if you don’t mind the jumpy storytelling. Else, it’s better you give Bliss a miss.
Bliss is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Runtime: 1 hour 43 minutes.