Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson bring us a new take on simulated reality.
Greg Wittle (Owen Wilson) is a recently divorced office worker who spends his days daydreaming. He gets fired and accidentally kills his boss, Bjorn (Steve Zissis), before covering up the murder and heading to a bar to try and hide. He meets Isabel (Salma Hayek) a seemingly homeless woman who tells Greg that she created this world and that he is one of the few “real” people in it. She offers him some crystals that give him telekinetic powers. The two soon start spending time together, with Isabel warning him not to associate with any people who are not “real,” which includes Greg’s daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper). Eventually, Isabel pulls the two of them out of the simulation and reveals that they actually live on a utopian future Earth. However, Greg cannot remember any of his former life, and instead only remembers his life in the simulation.
This movie has some fun elements to it, but ultimately cashes in on none of the potentially interesting ideas. The idea of “simulated reality” has been used repeatedly since The Matrix became a massively successful hit, but that means that a movie that just says “what if reality is fake” doesn’t really count as innovative. While the idea of being the only two real people in a world of fiction or a real person having beliefs that he has a real daughter in a false reality might be good, the film barely touches on them. Instead, it mostly features some odd scenes of the pair messing around with their powers (which are weirdly dependent on drugs for some reason) and a bunch of exposition that, like Matrix Reloaded, is mostly more complicated than the ideas that it’s trying to convey. It’s like someone audited a first year philosophy class, watched The Thirteenth Floor, and then churned out a screenplay.
About halfway through the movie, the film changes completely by heading to the futuristic world that is supposedly the “real” one. In it, humanity has entered an enlightened golden age thanks to science, making almost everyone on Earth desire to be an artist or an engineer. Also, Bill Nye and Slavoj Zizek are there, which raises so many questions about who they would be in a world that has largely moved into a completely different kind of existence. However, since Greg doesn’t remember it, he has to learn everything anew, which is good for the audience, but no one seems bothered by the fact that he has essentially been replaced by a new person. It’s an element that seems obvious and is completely overlooked.
Overall, it’s just not that great of a film. It seems like this should, at least, have some stuff to contemplate, but instead it’s just a waste of time.
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