What The Bleep Do We Know?

2004, Movie, NR, 111 mins

Review

WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW?
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Why would anyone who wanted his or her film to be taken seriously saddle it with a cutesy title like this? Mark Vicente, William Arntz and Betsy Chasse's documentary-fiction hybrid is an ostensibly level headed examination of the point at which spirituality and science — specifically quantum physics — intersect, and poses entirely legitimate questions about the nature of consciousness and its relationship with external reality, and the apparent inability of intelligent people to break self-destructive behavior patterns. But it quickly tumbles down a rabbit hole of annoying psychobabble, dubious science and embarrassingly silly animation. The film's lengthy examination of the biological peptide/receptor mechanism, which may explain the obduracy of dependence on both true addictive behaviors like drug addiction and equally destructive compulsions — uncontrollable overeating, promiscuity, financially ruinous shopping — is far more compelling before it starts using Flubber-like blobs aping Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" video to illustrate the irresistibility of desire itself, independent of any particular object. The film's narrative segments revolve around professional photographer Amanda (Marlee Matlin), whose bitter divorce left her gobbling antianxiety pills and wallowing in cynical loneliness and self-loathing. The best efforts of her kindly boss (Barry Newman) and flaky but well-adjusted friend Jennifer (Elaine Hendrix) fail to help Amanda see that her attitude is the largest part of her problem. But a series of mind-bending encounters introduces her to the basic principles of "the physics of possibility," which allow for parallel realities that exist simultaneously, objects that can be in two places at once and the prospect that we can shape reality with our minds and remember the future as well as the past. Amanda's travails are interspersed with talking-head interviews featuring real-life physicists, medical doctors and assorted experts on consciousness and spirituality, some of who sound quite sober and reasonable while others give off a distinct whiff of nuttiness. Their affiliations are only specified during the closing credits. Knowing that Vicente, Arntz and Chasse are all associated with Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, explains the prominence given to JZ Knight, who founded the School of Enlightenment after Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit who once lived in the mythical lost city of Atlantis, appeared in her Tacoma, Washington, kitchen in 1977. She's actually credited as "Ramtha, channeled by JZ Knight," and being associated with questionable practices like trancechanneling tars everyone else — perhaps unfairly — with the taint of New Age mumbo jumbo. The sequel WHAT THE BLEEP!? DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE (2006) is actually little more than an extended version of the original film. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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