Marlee's Happy Accidents and New Age Neuroses: What the Bleep Do We Care?

She sings the body electric: Matlin
photo: Lord of the Wind Films

What the Bleep Do We Know!? dramatizes the sorrows of dour photographer Amanda (Marlee Matlin), pausing every few minutes so that a chorus of real-life anesthesiologists, physicists, and spiritual mediums can explain, with Sliding Doors–like speculation, how she might have made different, happier choices. Matlin's haphephobic character dry-swallows anti-anxiety pills only in instances of extreme duress, but the actress herself looks pained throughout the movie, wincing reflexively at inappropriate moments. You feel relieved for Amanda when she loses control and gets drunk at a wedding reception—and disappointed that when she sobers up the next morning she has found the greatest love of all, which she expresses by drawing hearts and vines all over her body with an eyeliner pencil.

A turgid, Enya-synth infomercial for New Age enlightenment, Bleep advertises science bisque for Amanda's soul. The movie's shocking revelation—restated relentlessly, in case you don't understand the first time—is that the observer necessarily affects the outcome of the observed. Ergo, we each control our own destinies. Surreal by design but also inadvertently, Bleep's weirdest scenes derive from a Repulsion-worthy fear of sexuality. "It only takes one thought here," says one expert, tapping her forehead incredulously, "for a man to have an erection in his member."

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