After 50 tedious minutes of the film (and as the most exciting trailer shows), “Bliss” transports Isabel and Greg, via the inhalation of special blue crystals, to a different, more colorful, and sunnier existence. They wake up in a science space that looks like a resort hall and are connected to a giant box of floating brains called The Brain Box. It’s the real world, Isabel tells her, and it’s a machine she invented to get cynical people to appreciate how bad things can be. Greg doesn’t remember stepping into this simulation, so he doesn’t remember the history of this place, or that he’s actually married to Isabel, but he does recognize the place: it’s beautiful paradise in lakeside from his drawings. He hardly wants to leave until he starts to see a figure of Emily, looking for her father.
“Bliss” is a lot more bizarre and boring than good, and it’s so confusing that even the movie’s sense of humor is a question mark. At least we have the chemistry between Wilson and Hayek, which can make Cahill’s more confusing ideas about romance – knocking out a bunch of people at the rink – like a movie star indulgence instead of just weird. They’re both inspired casting choices, like how Wilson is more low-key and jagged than normal, doing his best to fill in a badly needed backstory for poor old Greg. And Hayek is even more cheerful, leaning into Isabel’s liveliness with spontaneity and flair in the cloudier world, and posing her as a beacon of brilliance in the brighter. Both push each other with this project and, to their credit, neither is overshadowed by inexplicable cameos from Bill Nye the Science Guy and Slavoj Žižek the Philosophy Guy.
Cahill is one of the bloodiest sci-fi writers / directors in the business, after “Another Earth” and “I Origins”. It doesn’t deal with twists and turns but hopes to broaden perspective and connection – concepts that are only lightly realized here, his most overworked film. Some visual ideas work in “Bliss,” like when objects from opposing worlds start to overlap with blinking cuts, or the holographic people side by side with flesh and blood in a brighter world. The world of the non-homeless also receives a nice touch with a light filter that DP Markus Förderer invented for the film, which turns white light into streaks of color. But instead of focusing on this world, or using more of these concepts, “Bliss” mostly gives us the mundane ugliness of Greg’s main existence.