The actual job of corporate lifer Greg Wittle in the head-twister Bliss is never explained. The task of star Owen Wilson playing him is clearer. Wittle is an American everyman, losing his grip in an everycity, working for a generic business named Technical Difficulties. In another movie, the joke would land with sardonic glee. Here, it is buried in a mournful blue-grey funk — but then Greg is nothing if not mournful and blue-grey, naggingly dissatisfied. Ignoring his phone, he sits at a desk covered in sketches of another life playing out in his mind’s eye, a neo-Grecian idyll and a woman who looks like Salma Hayek. “I have so many thoughts I wish you could see,” he tells his boss, with whom you may sympathise more than director Mike Cahill intended.
A scene of mayhem follows. Mayhem is the default thereafter. Most of it comes with the entrance of an off-grid hustler played, naturally, by Salma Hayek. If Greg’s dreams seem to be finally coming true, a sting in the tail awaits. She explains that his office life has really been the dream all along — an experiment in simulated reality, conducted from the future. Cahill plays the brain-in-a-vat theory straight, while leaving open the chance that Greg may simply be spiralling into breakdown.
It must have all made a great pitch, just as it would a fine episode of The Twilight Zone. But Lord knows, reality can be a drag. For all the fizz of the ideas, the execution is glum and muted, not helped by Wilson’s drooping houseplant energy.
On Amazon Prime from February 5