Call it the Frozen Assets Rule: If the one-joke premise of a comedy is accompanied—or begs to be accompanied—by the sound of a record scratching, avert your eyes. For those unschooled in Shelley Long’s cinematic misadventures post-Cheers, Frozen Assets stars Corbin Bernsen as a corporate executive sent to run a small-town bank—a sperm bank, that is. [Screeeeeech.] Along the same lines, Julie Davis’ dismal comedy Finding Bliss stars Leelee Sobieski as an award-winning NYU film school graduate who, after months of directing (traffic on studio lots), finally lands a job as a Hollywood film editor. Of porno movies. [Screeeeeech.] And she uses the opportunity to shoot her own indie movie surreptitiously at the production facility after hours. Using porn actors. [Screeeeeech.] Who are too tired to perform the next day. [Screeeeeech.]
And so on. Writer-director Julie Davis (Amy’s Orgasm), who once edited promo spots for the Playboy Channel, specializes in romantic comedies with a raunchy twist and virginal heroines who have to fight through their sexual hang-ups. (The title of her 1997 debut feature, I Love You, Don’t Touch Me! makes that plain, as does Finding Bliss’ movie-within-a-movie, On The Virge.) She’s been compared to Woody Allen, but her sensibility is less sophisticated and heavily indebted to Hollywood formula, despite the salty language and veneer of indie edginess. Take away the porn angle and Finding Bliss’ is just another “opposites attract” romance: Sobieski is innocent, idealistic, and a little repressed and her counterpart, Matthew Davis, is cynical, world-weary, and needing to be redeemed by love. He just happens to direct adult movies.
Finding Bliss is a carnival of horrors: Garry Marshall, appearing as himself, is made to seem like the avatar of creative success; Denise Richards shows up as the actress cast as Sobieski’s virginal movie-within-a-movie surrogate, and Jamie Kennedy, as a Dirk Diggler-type named “Richard Harder,” gets the lion’s share of the nude scenes. Davis’ Borscht Belt sensibility keeps the jokes coming at a rapid clip and even though nearly all of them are flopping, there’s a generosity to the attempt that keeps the film from scraping bottom. It’s a big-hearted, well-intentioned disaster.