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BLISS

What You Need To Know:

The long term effect of childhood sexual abuse on a woman’s life-especially in her marriage is a very important and sensitive topic, not easy to portray on film without veering into exploitation or psychobabble. BLISS attempts to tackle this issue in a serious, “grown-up” manner, but falls short in nearly all respects. We first meet Joseph (Craig Sheffer) and Maria (Sheryl Lee) on their wedding day, during which the groom acknowledges that his beloved bride-to-be has some psychological quirks. Six months later, the not-so-newlyweds are in the marriage counselor’s office about a variety of issues. What bothers Joseph the most, however, is the revelation that she has not experienced sexual fulfillment with him. To make matters worse, he discovers that she has been seeking the “input” of an unconventional psychotherapist, one Dr. Baltazar (Terence Stamp), who has sex with his clients. Joseph confronts the quack psychologist, but, as Maria’s behavior continues to deteriorate, Joseph returns to Baltazar and asks for his help.

Writer-Director Lance Young deserves credit for acknowledging the long-term devastation caused by incest, but without a clear understanding of how God views human sexuality, this film gets a failing grade in psychology, theology and ethics. The pervasive, throbbing erotic imagery in this film calls into question its supposedly serious intentions, and its New Age underpinnings are wrongheaded while much of its psychological dialogue sounds highly contrived, or silly

Content:

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More Detail:

The long term effect of childhood sexual abuse on a woman’s life-especially in her marriage is a very important and sensitive topic, not easy to portray on film without veering into exploitation or psychobabble. BLISS attempts to tackle this issue in a serious, “grown-up” manner but falls short in nearly all respects.

We first meet Joseph (Craig Sheffer) and Maria (Sheryl Lee) on their wedding day, during which the groom acknowledges that his beloved bride-to-be has some psychological quirks which could create problems in their future. Six months later, the not-so-newlyweds are in the marriage counselor’s office concerning a variety of issues, especially Maria’s obsessive-compulsive behavior (manifested by a preoccupation with the flies and ants in their home). What bothers Joseph the most, however, is the revelation that she has not experienced sexual fulfillment with him and that her orgasmic moans and groans have been faked. To make matters worse, he discovers that she has been seeking the “input” of an unconventional psychotherapist, one Dr. Baltazar (Terence Stamp), whose approach to healing includes having sex with his clients.

Enraged, Joseph immediately confronts Dr. Baltazar (whom he sarcastically calls Dr. F-), and gives him a well-deserved tongue-lashing. Regrettably, Maria’s behavior continues to deteriorate, despite the ongoing effort so of her conventional marriage counselor (Spalding Gray). In an unsettling plot turn, Joseph returns to Baltazar and asks for his help: What can he, Maria’s husband, do to bring about her recovery? In what is portrayed as a grand stroke of enlightenment, Baltazar agrees not to see Maria any more, but instead to tutor Joseph (in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Yoda and Luke Skywalker) in all manner of things relational, sexual and spiritual.

Some of what Joseph learns is valid. For example, he come to view sex not merely in terms of his own satisfaction, but as a means of cherishing and even healing his own wife. At one point, he even chastises a male friend for making crude comments about women. Regrettably, mixed into this marital boot camp are intense doses of New Age mysticism, (lots of talk about chakras and energy flow), self-help clichés (“I love myself, I love myself) and psycho-sexual baloney. Baltazar sees sexual ecstasy as a means of healing the subconscious, an idea which the editors of Playboy and Penthouse would heartily endorse. He tells Joseph how to find, and to stimulate the “sacred spot” in Maria’s vagina, where, he says, “all of her psychic hurts reside-it will take time to release them.”

Joseph’s “lab work” with Maria is vividly portrayed with lots of sweaty, back-lit, soft-core fervor. Not until the final reel, however, do we discover that Maria’s problems stem from years of sexual abuse by her father during childhood. When it comes time to confront these painful episodes, and their ramifications in her life, BLISS takes a much more straightforward tack, showing Maria engaged in a lengthy and arduous process of recovery in a structured setting (which appears in fact to occur within a church building).

Writer-Director Lance Young deserves some credit for attempting to portray the sexual relationship within a marriage as an important and powerful gift and for acknowledging the long-term devastation caused by incest. Indeed, it is possible that this film might even impel a current, or would-be abuser to cease this behavior and seek help. However, without a clear understanding of how sexuality is viewed by its Creator, Young more often than not takes BLISS off the deep end. In particular, the pervasive, throbbing erotic imagery in this film calls into question its supposedly serious intentions. Furthermore, its New Age underpinnings are wrongheaded and much of its psychological dialogue sounds highly contrived, or silly.

The unredeemable flaw of this film, which deserves resounding condemnation, is its sympathetic portrayal of Baltazar’s sexual “therapy” with his clients. BLISS reveals no consequences or downside to this behavior, which is in fact an egregious and blatant betrayal of the relationship between a therapist and his patient (and is recognized as such by every legitimate medical and psychological organization). Baltazar is shown not only getting away with this nonsense, but actually thriving because of it. To say the least, this is an unsatisfying plot device. More importantly, it is extremely irresponsible. For this gross lack of judgment, the producers of BLISS get failing grades in psychology, theology and ethics.

Now more than ever we’re bombarded by darkness in media, movies, and TV. Movieguide® has fought back for almost 40 years, working within Hollywood to propel uplifting and positive content. We’re proud to say we’ve collaborated with some of the top industry players to influence and redeem entertainment for Jesus. Still, the most influential person in Hollywood is you. The viewer.

What you listen to, watch, and read has power. Movieguide® wants to give you the resources to empower the good and the beautiful. But we can’t do it alone. We need your support.

You can make a difference with as little as $7. It takes only a moment. If you can, consider supporting our ministry with a monthly gift. Thank you.

Movieguide® is a 501c3 and all donations are tax deductible.


Now more than ever we’re bombarded by darkness in media, movies, and TV. Movieguide® has fought back for almost 40 years, working within Hollywood to propel uplifting and positive content. We’re proud to say we’ve collaborated with some of the top industry players to influence and redeem entertainment for Jesus. Still, the most influential person in Hollywood is you. The viewer.

What you listen to, watch, and read has power. Movieguide® wants to give you the resources to empower the good and the beautiful. But we can’t do it alone. We need your support.

You can make a difference with as little as $7. It takes only a moment. If you can, consider supporting our ministry with a monthly gift. Thank you.

Movieguide® is a 501c3 and all donations are tax deductible.