Synopsis: Aspiring filmmaker Jody Balaban (Leelee Sobieski) takes a job at a porn studio, planning to use the company’s lush facilities to secretly film her own movie after hours. When Jody’s ruse is discovered, she’s forced to collaborate with infamous porn director, Jeff Drake (Matt Davis) – an initially fractious relationship that simmers into an unexpected romance.
Finding Bliss 7.0
‘Finding Bliss’ is a dramedy that revolves around a young woman’s intimacy issues and her career ambitions; it’s about the choices she makes to find love and to become the filmmaker that she aspires to be. As well, her dreams are put in contrast with the hope and expectations that her family and friends have for her and with what life has to offer.
I was quite surprised to discover that this was written and directed by a woman, if only because it’s set in the world of adult entertainment, something you’d expect more out of a male filmmaker (not sure why… ). But, after looking at Julie Davis’ short filmography, I get the impression that she tends to like exploring a woman’s heart in conjunction with her sex life or sexual identity.
I’m even starting to think that this may be partly autobiographical, because one of her earliest films echoes the film that our protagonist, Jody Balaban, is making here. Believing this makes me want to see her other films, because there’s nothing better than personal work – especially when it nixes traditional roles and attitudes. The whole question is… can they be found anywhere?
Because, even ‘Finding Bliss’ was an oddity that I found in a store that is hidden deep in the recesses of a nearby town. I don’t think I’ve seen it anywhere else, and that’s why I grabbed it whilst I could. It didn’t seem great, but I figured that it may be my only chance to give it a try. Plus it had Leelee Sobieski in it, and ever since ‘My First Mister’ she’s been on my radar.
I like Sobieski because she always fleshes out her characters, makes intriguing film choices, and isn’t the traditional Hollywood beauty – what with her equine body, deliciously long, muscular, and imposing. She kind of reminds me of a cross between Laura Dern and Helen Hunt, in some ways, due to her look and acting ability. One could really do worse.
Aside from Sobieski, I was slightly sceptical. I like Jamie Kennedy, and I know he’s skilled, but I’ve never seen him in anything but the ‘Scream’ films. Here he played a clueless but endearing character absolutely perfectly. And then there’s Denise Richards, whom I’ve loathed for years – she’s ruined many a film for me. In this, she was actually not half-bad. A nice surprise.
The dialogues were quite good – I found them believable enough. Sure, they may not be of Coen Bros quality, but I was impressed considering the type of film. Perhaps my expectations influenced my assessment, but I think that, being written by a woman, the approach was more emotionally real than it might have been otherwise. And she managed to avoid being too saccharine, like some are.
However, I hated the contrived drama that took place in the final act. It was far too conventional and, consequently, boring. As well, the ending reeked of cliché and lacked real punch. I think that having a small flash-forward “where are they now?” closing bit (as trite as that is), would have left us with a more satisfying resolution than just having Sobieski show up at the AVNs to make her catch.
Speaking of the Adult Video News Awards, I was wondering throughout just how involved the adult entertainment industry was with this production. I don’t know it well enough to say, but I recognized two faces at the awards themselves, which leads me to conclude that there is some association. I can’t help but wonder if the film is financed by, or produced with much help from, the industry itself… kind of like a product placement. Hmmm…
Having said this, I suppose that I should take a moment to address the sexual content, given the setting:
While there’s lots of sex, the film is not especially graphic. I also didn’t think any of it was sexy or titillating. Really, it’s the context and resulting dialogues that are explicit, not the on-screen action. Kennedy does show off his penis, though (which is a rare thing for male actors to do – especially in a romantic comedy), but that’s as bad as it gets.
Frankly, I’d be curious to know how this film plays to audiences. Does it put women off because of the setting? Or does it put men off because of the romantic developments? I think that there’s something for both in this film, but I find that it strikes a very uneasy balance between elements that are more conventionally male and female points of interests. Unfortunately, it could have mixed the two a bit better.
I would have given ‘Finding Bliss’ a 7.5-8.0 if not for that last act. That’s truly unfortunate because it had the potential of becoming a recurring player in my collection. As it stands, though, that weaker last part taints the rest for me. Be that as it may, in the end, it may not be blissful, but I still think that this is an enjoyable film; it certainly has a few things going for it.