‘Bliss’ is an unpleasant mess


Photo taken from joblo.com

Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek in “Bliss”.

Keertana Gangireddy, Co-Managing Editor

Addiction is at most times a disagreeable and uncomfortable topic to discuss in today’s society. Although many movies have portrayed the experiences of an addict, they often fall short in terms of giving viewers a sense of understanding of the lives and choices of those who abuse drugs.

The film “Bliss”, which released on Amazon Prime on February 5, attempts to better depict substance abuse through the use of a plot that incorporates science-fiction elements and alternate realities. 

Written and directed by Mark Cahill, the movie follows Greg Wittle (Owen Wilson), a recent divorcé who works at a company called Technical Difficulties. It is established from the very beginning that Greg has a dependency on painkillers, and he unintentionally overlooks his responsibilities and his children because of his daydreaming tendencies. 

After his deficiencies get him fired from his job, he meets Isabel Clemens (Salma Hayek), who gets him addicted to a form of stronger drugs. The drugs are portrayed as magical ‘yellow crystals’, which give Isabel and Greg telekinetic abilities. 

Isabel tells Greg that the reality that they are in and the people around them, including Greg’s daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper), are not ‘real’. Thus, Greg and Isabel manipulate and harm their environment by using their powers from the crystals with no sense of guilt or wrongdoing.

After living in severe poverty, Isabel introduces ‘blue crystals’ to Greg. Upon taking the crystals, Greg and Isabel are transported from the city to an alternate idyllic reality, where it is indicated that Greg and Isabel were a part of an experiment that shifted them to an impoverished setting so they could “experience the good to appreciate the bad”. 

When the two realities within the movie start bleeding together, Greg grapples with what is ‘real’, and what isn’t, and ultimately has to choose whether he wants to stay in the utopia provided to him by the crystals, or return to his previous destitute condition with his daughter’s help.

One of the stronger points of the film is that watching it truly feels like what one would perceive a drug trip to feel like. Through the cinematography and Wilson’s and Hayek’s acting, the tension and confusion experienced by the characters in the film are tangible through the screen. Although a discrepant plot is not what most movies strive to boast, the jarring and chaotic storytelling works in favor of “Bliss” in this sense.

The narrative offers a new perspective on escapism, as well as the impacts of addiction on relationships and mental well being, especially through Greg’s bond with Emily.

Additionally, Cahill uses color beautifully within the movie. The scenes in the city are dull, muted, and one-toned, whereas the second paradisal reality is vibrant and sunny. The stark contrast in colors both easily conveys the mood of the scenes and contributes to the overall message of the film.

In “Bliss”, Cahill uses the two realities juxtaposed with the question as to what is real and what is in Greg’s head to communicate that for addicts, there is little distinction between their sober reality and high reality, and oftentimes, addicts find their world when on drugs more ‘real’ than actuality. 

However, the excessive science-fiction features, including the telekinesis and futuristic human experiments within the movie, muddle its essence and main ideas.

Much of the film is left for viewer interpretation. Despite that, the film leaves a plethora of loose ends, as it juggles too many facets and narratives. The unanswered questions make it pretty much impossible for the audience to decipher the film and form an opinion on the ending, as well as realize and understand the implications of Greg’s fate. 

The complication makes the movie nearly pointless, as it comes across as solely a messy series of events.

Thus, while the disorderly storytelling is a positive aspect of the film in some ways, the underwritten script fails the movie by losing its track and missing the point it was set out to express. Although the movie’s message is admirable, its execution of the themes it attempts to convey to the audience is ultimately its downfall.

Regardless, I would recommend “Bliss” to anybody who enjoys discerning moral films with hard-hitting implications and allegorical storytelling, like “The Matrix”, those who want a new perception of addiction, and those who care more about the cinematography of a movie than its plot.