Sunday, October 03, 2004

"What the Bleep?" was a mystery to me

“What the #$*! Do We Know?” (aka "What the Bleep?") is a small film that, in USA Today’s words, “mixes quantum physics, animation and documentary filmmaking.” The film is obviously a small-budget film but is spreading quickly in moviehouses from state to state, and so far has taken in over $4 million, cracking the top 25 in current movies, but it looks like it’s going to make much more in repeat business. (The budget of the film was $5 million.)

The movie mixes interviews with scientists and philosophers, physicians and seers, talking about the meaning of life. Mix in a little mathematics, and follow actress Marlee Matlin around and apparently you have a movie that some people have repeatedly viewed in an effort to understand life.

I have to admit that I thought it was a snooze. I never really figured out what the film was trying to say. I was terribly bored, especially throughout most of the documentary section. The movie does much better when the actors come back to the smallish story. Dig through all that rhetorical pseudo-scientific graffitti to the emotional core of the film, which is in Marlee Matlin’s admirable response to the film's vital Alfie-esque question of what's it all about. Marlee does an extraordinary job with very little material. Her nude scene should be a real thrill, but instead, you'll find it difficult to watch once you're drawn into her maelstrom of depression and self-doubt.

In spite of the actors' efforts, however, I still found myself saying as I walked out, "What the bleep did I just watch?"


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