Quarks and quacks

What The Bleep Do We Know!?

The Toronto Star/October 8, 2004
By Peter Howell
Movie Critic

Starring Marlee Matlin, Elaine Hendrix and Barry Newman. Directed by William Arntz, Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente. 111 minutes. At the Carlton.

The film with the year's most unfortunate title also happens to be a candidate for the year's worst film.

What The Bleep Do We Know!? is little more than a clumsy infomercial for a New Age pursuit called Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, RSE for short, which follows the teachings of an 11,000-year-old warrior as channelled by a 58-year-old New Mexico woman. The sect apparently holds quantum mechanics, metaphysics and bafflegab in equal esteem.

Such heavy thoughts as "There is no out there, out there" and "We create our reality" are pondered in What The Bleep via tedious melodrama, pompous speeches, animated pink brain cells and flat-out deception.

The movie is getting a major theatrical release, rather than cable TV banishment, thanks to the deep pockets of William Arntz, a U.S. computer wizard (he developed the AutoSys management software).

Arntz is also a devotee of RSE, as are his credited co-directors, Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente.

The film might be described as I Huckabees without the talent, laughs or penetrating insights. Part drama and part lecture, it "stars" Marlee Matlin as anxiety-pill gobbling photographer Amanda, who apparently has fallen into a deep funk as a result of a wayward husband, now absent from the scene.

Amanda is having trouble coping. Her daily crises are made worse by her loopy roommate (Elaine Hendrix) and creepy boss (Barry Newman). Any sympathy we might feel for Amanda is snuffed out by endless on-camera interruptions by various eggheads, soothsayers and gurus. They include the occasional real scientist but also a defrocked Catholic priest and a woman named Judy "JZ" Knight, the RSE founder from Roswell, N.M., who claims to commune with the ghost of an ancient warrior named Ramtha, whom she first encountered in her kitchen in 1977. (He apparently didn't arrive by flying saucer.)

The talking heads interject with exhortations about the mysteries of life, with occasional news flashes about sex: "It only takes one sexual fantasy for a man to have a hard-on." Duh.

None of these people are identified until the film's end, supposedly for artistic reasons. More likely it is to hide the agenda of the film to promote RSE's nutty philosophy, which makes the What The Bleep as dishonest as it is deathly dull.

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