bliss | joe begos | dora madison | tru collins | rhys wakefield | arthouse | vampire | vampires | united states | jeremy gardner | graham skipper | chris mckenna | rachel avery | mark beltzman | george wendt | abraham benrubi | jesse merlin | matt mercer | josh ethier
Director: Joe Begos
Writer: Joe Begos
Starring: Dora Madison, Tru Collins and Rhys Wakefield
This film I saw a poster for it and heard some buzz about this. I know that it played at a film festival at the theater that I’m a member at. The person, who actually does the programming at this theater, was pretty impressed by it. When I saw it was showing the following weekend, I decided to check it out. The synopsis is a brilliant painter facing the worst creative block of her life turns into anything she can to complete her masterpiece, spiraling into a hallucinatory hellscape of drugs, sex and murder in the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles.
We start this in the apartment of Dezzy (Dora Madison). She is a painter that is currently struggling. She hasn’t been able to paint in months. She’s looking over a canvas that is supposed to be turned in for a gallery and all she has is the base. Her boyfriend, Clive (Jeremy Gardner), asks her to give him a ride. She tells him she doesn’t have time, but he does get her to agree. The problem is though he makes her late. As their leaving, her landlord Lance (Mark Beltzman) yells at her as she’s behind on her rent and he threatens to throw her out. She does get him to calm down and promises him the check.
She goes to see her agent, David (Chris McKenna) and he asks about the piece that she was supposed to be finished with. She asks for an extension, but he tells her that he needs something to go to Nikki St. Jean. She tells him that she can’t do that and he drops her as a client.
This causes her to go into somewhat of a tailspin and she calls up Hadrian (Graham Skipper). She asks if he is holding, because she needs something to give her inspiration. When she arrives at his place, there are three guys playing poker. They are Pops (George Wendt), Abe (Abraham Benrubi) and Bobby (Josh Ethier). She goes into the back room with Hadrian and he shows her the drugs he has. She decides on one called Diablo and he gives her a sample.
We see her go on a bender that night that leads her to Courtney (Tru Collins) and Ronnie (Rhys Wakefield). This involves a lot of drug use and them having a sexual encounter. When Dezzy comes out of it, she actually did some painting, but she doesn’t remember it. When Clive shows up and asks her to come out for a drink. She has had issues with drugs in the past and she’s relapsing into the hard stuff that leads her down a dark path that results in her painting, but also into a new addiction that takes the lives of those around her.
Now I’m glad that I came in as blind as I did with this film, so I didn’t have any preconceived notions of what to expect. This movie actually has a warning when it starts that there are flashing lights that if you are susceptible to seizures, you should avoid this. The major part of this is showing us some wild thing does Dezzy under the influence. I will share something that I have blacked out from drinking more than I care to admit to, so I can really feel for what she is going through. It is actually scary to see this playing out.
I’ll shift to the painting aspect here. I find this interesting as when she was ‘sober’, she couldn’t paint and actually has put herself in a bad position. She never gives up alcohol and marijuana, but just the hard stuff. The moment she relapses though, she is creative again. It is kind of sad, but I’ve heard some artists really need to be opened up in order to be able to produce.
As Dezzy is working on her masterpiece, she is hurting those around her in order to do so. I like that the faces in the painting seem to look like those that she hurts during her black out. I really can see how drugs and her producing can actually affect the lives around her. She can’t give this up though as she really just needs to get it out of her, even if it kills her in the process.
There’s a possible supernatural aspect to this film as well. What I really like though is that when we first see it, she is on a bender. We don’t know if she is just hallucinating the things or if they’re really happening. This is a fine line to tip-toe though. I do like that it does show us the truth of the matter and I actually like what the reveal is that has happened to her. It is interesting that she doesn’t have a lot of self-control, so I could buy that she wouldn’t be able to control this new addiction.
I’ll shift next to the pacing of the movie, which I think is good. I like that it doesn’t waste any time getting into it and jumps right in. It really builds tension through worrying about what Dezzy is dealing with. We see that each time she loses control, she is struggling when she wakes up from it. I do like how it ends and seeing the final product she is working on. The editing is also interesting here. It really does show us her black outs and how weird things are. As I said earlier, that is how I remember some things during mine as it is quite incoherent.
To the acting here, I thought that Madison was great. In the beginning we see that she’s a bit desperate. She hasn’t been able to paint in months and it’s wearing on her. We then see her relapse and she descends into drug induced madness. I feel for her, even though she really needs help. We do get character growth, it is just negative. She is also quite attractive and we get to see her nude, which I didn’t mind at all. Collins is interesting as well as Wakefield. They’re really bad influences and just are free spirits. Gardner is kind of a jerk, but I liked that he really does care about Dezzy, he’s just not the best for her. Skipper and the rest of the cast definitely round out the film for what was needed, with nice cameos by Wendt and Benrubi.
As to the effects of the movie, I think they were really good as well. I’ve touched on there’s a bit of a psychedelic feel while she is high. Since I’ve never taken drugs that would do that to me, I would just assume this is how it would be experience it. I feel like there’s a bit of haziness when it is day, which does feel like a hangover. That I can confirm as how it feels. Going from there, the blood and the gore we get was really good. It was done practically and actually looked really good if I’m honest. I wasn’t expecting that at all. It is shot very well, if you couldn’t tell by making it seem like someone who is high and losing control.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. I thought that it fit the film for sure. It actually really enhanced some of the scenes, as I could feel the sense of dread or anxiety really growing. It isn’t necessarily music that I would revisit, but it definitely works for what they needed.
Now with that said, I actually really enjoyed this film. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, but what I saw blew me away. There’s definitely a cautionary tale here of drug use and losing control. What we see in the movie, I felt was a good representation of going too far with them, from personal experience. I like that we build to the supernatural aspect and it definitely was interesting. I think that the acting of Madison was really good and brought that to life. The rest of the cast really did round out for what they needed. It is paced in a way where it never got boring, it jumps right in and with a run time of 80 minutes, so it doesn’t overstay. The effects were really good and the soundtrack fit for what they needed, with moments where it really enhanced the scenes. I’ll admit, I love this film and is a contender for my favorite film of the year. I found this to be amazing if I’m perfectly honest.
My Rating: 10 out of 10