Mike’s Review: Bliss (2019)

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Directed by Joe Begos

Are you a fan of a) Metal, b) vaguely satanic possessions, c) explicit drug usage, d) nudity, e) lots of blood (read: LOTS), and f) the word FUCK?  I mean, sure who isn’t in favor of all these things right?  Each has lots to offer. They’re interesting.  Taken in small doses they can be a very powerful antidote to a lagging cinematic undertaking.  When taken in over-dose-like proportions the gore and bad words take on an underwhelming status. 

That’s more or less the conundrum that 2019’s Bliss brings to the table.  Directed by Joe Begos, Bliss follows young dirtbag artist Dezzy (Dora Madison) who’s on an hour and twenty minute mission to be pissed.  Not just pissed, but super-pissesd.  Dezzy has one speed.  That speed is anger. No other emotions are on display, just rage — and that’s before she injests a snootful of hallucinogenic satanic black powder.  Note: if someone offers you a bump of hallucinogenic satanic black powder, kindly turn it down. Or better yet, just say “no.”  Dezzy is a somewhat struggling artist who’s dealing with issues of creativity. She connects up with her on again/off again chum/dealer who offers her a chance to kick her creative block to the curb. A snort here and a snort there and Dezzy is off to the races. 

Fangoria! Woo!
Is this what they call a “bad trip?”

Not being a person that’s every really had “no” in her vocabulary, Dezzy stomps, rages, and inhales everything and everyone that she encounters. Dezzy connects up with one of her tightest dirtbag pals and her Lost Boys-looking boy pal and the snorting, drinking, cavorting devolves in to a psychedelic cacophony of orgiastic rapture. There’s blood, metal, and lots of nudity. Yet, while Dezzy manages to kick her artistic block she’s beset with wicked thoughts and mighty blackouts.  As she works to finish her latest masterpiece — which starts out looking like a Rothko rip-off and eventually turns in to a Hieronymus Bosch freakout — the bill collectors, art dealers, and agents all come calling.  Her world is quickly being turned upside down and her only hope lies in the loving hands of narcotics. 

Dezzy heads back to her chum/dealer and demands more of what’s making her so twisted. Her dealer balks and she gnaws, chomps, and gnashes through a collection of drug addicts and hangers-on — including the most underwhelming performance from George Wendt (Norm from Cheers). She’s able to blow through the entire crew and get her grubby paws on an exceptional amount of “bliss” (AKA: diablo) her new-found drug of choice. 

Maybe Bliss is just a good looking cautionary tale about the pitfalls of metal, drugs, nudity, and satanism. Maybe it’s a celebration of these things. Either way, director Joe Begos doesn’t bother to make this point entirely clear, nor does he firmly plant his foot in the vampire, psychedelic hallucination, or satanism camps.  He eschews all these well-trod paths and just noncommittally pokes around on the edges of them all. That said, Joe Begos is not one to sleep on. He turns in a good looking and great sounding piece of film, but he unfortunately chooses an entirely unlikable protagonist in Dezzy.  There’s little to emphasize with and her (pre-narcotics) choices are selfish and mean-spirited.  As she rages, stomps, and “fuck you”s her way through the film the audience will find themselves rooting against her plight and her art.  Not all art is for everyone, but the less there is to like, the harder it is to swallow the bloody art pill.   

Bliss is a strong R rating and is currently streaming on Shudder. 

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