'Finding Bliss' Review By Jami Philbrick
A funny movie about the adult film industry that gets lost at times but in the end features a good performance from Leelee Sobieski and an absolutely courageous performance by comedian Jamie Kennedy.
The film begins by introducing us to Jody Balaban (Sobieski) as she graduates from film school at Dartmouth. Her thesis film, which is actually a retelling of her horrific childhood where she was conditioned to believe that sex is bad, wins a special prize that is presented to her at the ceremony by big time Hollywood director Gary Marshall. We flash forward to a year later, Jody has moved to Hollywood and is pursuing her dream of directing a movie, however she is finding that it is easier said than done. Jody has been fired from one meaningless studio job after another and with her "mentor" Gary Marshall refusing to take her calls; Jody is beginning to feel defeated. Making matters worse are her parent's constant nagging for Jody to give up her silly goals and just move back in with them. Fed up and ready to quit, Jody gets an interview with a small production company called Grind for a job as an editor.
Jody is shocked to find out that Grind, is in fact an adult entertainment company. However she impresses the company's owner, Irene (Johnston), enough that she offers her the position. At first Jody is appalled and has no intentions of taking the job and then she realizes away that she can use this job to her advantage. She'll take the position and edit porn by day but at night she can secretly shoot her own movie using the company's equipment and facilities. Jody soon meets the director that she will be working with, Jeff Drake (Davis), a fellow Dartmouth alumnus who had won the same filmmaking prize that Jody had won but after moving to Hollywood began a career of directing porn. Jody's bosses soon find out what she is up to and agree to allow her to finish her movie as long as she helps Drake re-write his film for free. They decide that the porn they are making is going to be more of an "art-house" film and will appeal to women as well as men.
However when Jody's cast finds out she is working at an adult film company, they quit, forcing Jody to take drastic measures. She decides to hire the porn actors from the adult film to "act" in her movie, including porn star Richard "Dick" Harder (Kennedy). As Jody continues to work on the two films she begins to examine her own hang-ups about sex, as she grows closer to the cast and stops judging them for their career choices. Unexpectedly, Jody starts to grow closer to Drake and begins to have feelings for him. As the two films grow closer to an end, Jody starts to enjoy her new career path and realizes that her co-workers are good people too. However the true test of Jody's loyalty comes when her parents find out her little secret. Now Jody must decide what is more important, pleasing her family, or standing by the family that she has created at Grind.
Sobieski has always been a strong and interesting actress and her upper-class persona was perfect for the role of Jody. She displayed just the right amount of snootiness for the part. Matt Davis was also good as porn director Jeff Drake and had a nice chemistry with Sobieski. Surprisingly Denise Richards gives a strong performance in the film, even if it is only in a few scenes. But it is the brave and daring performance of Jamie Kennedy that makes the film worth watching. His dim-witted character, Richard "Dick" Harder, almost steals the film and is hilarious in all his scenes. But the big shock comes towards the end of the movie when Kennedy exposes himself with full-frontal nudity. I was shocked and impressed that an actor of his caliber and level of fame would do such a thing but it makes for a hilarious scene. Writer/director Julie Davis based the film, in part, on her own experience working at Playboy TV and her passion and knowledge of the subject shows. However the script is a bit contrived and relies heavily on the performances of the actors to work. In the end, "Finding Bliss" is a quirky little film that is fun to watch but might not leave a lasting impression on its audience. But if you do see it, be sure to keep an eye out for a cameo by real-life adult film legend, Ron Jeremy.