Bliss: Bag-lady Salma Hayek and glum Owen Wilson

Film review: Countercasting is interesting, but it’s a head-scratcher of a movie

Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson star in Bliss. Photograph: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Amazon Studios

Film Title: Bliss

Director: Mike Cahill

Starring: Salma Hayek, Owen Wilson, Madeline Zima, Nesta Cooper

Genre: Sci-Fi

Running Time: 103 min

Fri, Feb 5, 2021, 05:00


Mike Cahill’s debut feature, Another Earth, was co-written by The OA creator Brit Marling. Bliss, a strange science-fiction featuring alternative realities and supernatural abilities, could easily be a first cousin to Marling’s Sound of My Voice or, indeed Cahill’s second feature I, Origins. 

The new film is both slicker and messier than these earlier projects. Slicker because Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson lend star wattage. And messier because there are moments that recall the more impenetrable happenings of Darren Aronofsky’s Mother. Bliss is, both literally and figuratively, a cluttered film, from its debris-strewn streets to its often murky plotting.

Owen Wilson plays Greg, a man in full-blown midlife crisis after recently getting divorced and fired in quick succession. He’s in a sorry and perhaps psychotic state when he meets Isabel (Salma Hayek), who lives on the streets and is convinced that the world around them is a computer simulation.

As the only “real” people, they become inseparable and squabbly. Her red-pill thinking demands, among other things, that Greg cut ties with his beloved daughter (Nesta Cooper). Is Isabel gaslighting him? The glowing golden and blue rocks she uses suggest there’s method – or at least Matrix fanship – to her madness. 

What’s going on here? Did Greg just lift that van with his mind? Or is he off his head? What’s with the ghost people? And the thought-imaging machine? Slowly, and somewhat messily, Bliss coalesces into an allegory about addiction. We think

The interesting counter-casting gives Owen Wilson an opportunity to be frantic and glum. Kathrine Gordon’s eye-catching bird’s nest hair designs and a foot-stamping performance almost allow Salma Hayek to pass for a bag lady. 
Expect head-scratching, some non-sequiturs and lots of quirks and Bliss will mostly entertain and consistently baffle.

Bliss is on Amazon Prime from Feb 5th