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Film / Bliss

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This is not about the 2021 Amazon Prime Video film starring Owen Wilson and Selma Hayek. For that film, see Bliss (2021).

Bliss is a 1985 eccentric comedy made in Australia which is based on the novel by Peter Carey. It is centered on an Australian ads salesman, Harry Joy, who dies in its beginning, except that it is only a clinical death. Thus he still has the time to change his ways.

His family is the one of eccentrics too and he has hard time living with them. Of course the history takes many unpredictable and inexplicable twists and turns. Once he meets a girl, Honey Barbara, and his life is never the same after that.



  • '80s Hair: Lucy, the daughter of Harry has qute a mane in the style of that decade.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: David Joy sells drugs. He makes his sister have sex with him in exchange for some drugs. Then when she pleasures him he also puts on an armband with swastika. To further lampshade that he is evil. Later nothing special happens to him.
  • Black Comedy: Of eccentric kind. Events happen out of nowhere then get dropped. Characters do not always behave completely logically as well.
  • Book Ends: The film starts with a death of Harry Joy. Turns out it is the clinical one. It ends with his biological death.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Harry's son, David insists that Lucy, his sister, would perform sexual services for him in exchange for drugs. This episode doesn't lead to any dramatic consequences later on.
  • Advertisement:
  • Carpet of Virility: Harry Joy has one.
  • Cassandra Truth: The car of Harry Joy is heavily damaged so the police arrest him when he rides in the semi-destroyed vehicle. He tells them that an elephant smashed it. Of course in the world of this eccentric comedy it is the truth and of course the police don't believe him and rough him up.
  • Commune: Of hippies living in the forest.
  • Driven to Suicide: Bettina Joy. Harry's wife who, learning that she has cancer and she will live only for another year goes out with a bang. She explodes herself with two huge bottles of petrol in front of several executives in the meeting room.
  • Elite Man–Courtesan Romance: Harry Joy who is well-off and a successful ads salesman courts Honey Barbara who is a Granola Girl who turned to prostitution to support her relations.
  • Flatline Plotline: In the beginning Harry Joy experiences the clinical death.
  • Foreshadowing: In one scene a burning tree branch falls behind Harry Joy. It is a foreshadowing that he will die when a branch of the tree he planted falls on him.
  • Framing Device: An aged Harry tells the story to his daughter from Honey Barbara
  • Fridge: If the older Harry tells his daughter of Honey Barbara the whole story he should have also told her that he first met her mother as a john when she was a prostitute.
    • However as their daughter must have been raised a hippie she might have taken it lightly.
  • Granola Girl: Honey Barbara.
  • Green Aesop: Modern industry (all those smoking chimneys of the plants) is evil because it causes cancer as shown on the map in the film where areas with higher cancer rates are painted darker. Later the cynical and materialistic Bettine falls prey to the cancer and kills herself.
  • Hairy Girl: Honey Barbara. She sports hairy crotch and pits.
    • This trope is played with when before going to the city to prostitute herself she shaves her legs noting to her mates in the hippie commune that someone has to earn money. She spares her underarm fur though.
  • The Hero Dies: In the beginning. Better still that his death is only clinical so he is given time.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Honey Barbara. Who does it only to support her relatives and quickly falls in love with Harry Joy.
  • Insistent Appellation: Dr. Alice Dalton in the mental asylum insists that Harry Joy should be named only Mr. Joy but not Mr. Harry Joy. She says that another patient should be called Mr Harry Joy. In fact another man was by mistake taken into the hospital and registered there as "Mr Harry Joy", then Harry reported himself voluntary and apparently was registered as "Mr Joy". So Alice Dalton is covering up the obvious error on the part on the organisation that at first hospitalised the wrong man.
  • Invisible to Normals: In the restaurant Bettine and her lover have sex on a table. Only one waiter can see it while all patrons do not notice anything.
  • Karma Houdini: David Joy does not face any consequences onscreen for compelling his sister to render him sexual services in exchange for drugs.
    • Averted with Bettina, the wife of Harry who is punished with cancer.
  • Meaningful Name: Honey Barbara who is very keen on honey, considering it the magical food.
    • Also Harry Joy's surname is telling however it is debatable whether one should take its meaning directly or cum grano salis.
  • Motor Mouth: Dr. Alice Dalton
  • Narrator All Along: In the first scenes a voiceover provides the viewer with narration. In the ending it turns out that Harry Joy is the narrator, relating the story to his daughter.
  • Near-Death Clairvoyance: Harry has it when he is clinically dead for four minutes. His soul leaves his body and floats above the ground.
  • No Swastikas: averted by David Joy who sells drugs, seduces his sister and put on a swastika armband. Nothing special happens to him later, it is all played for laughs
  • One-Word Title
  • Parents Walk In at the Worst Time: Played with twice: First Bettina nearly enters at the moment when Lucy pleasures David but they manage to avoid being surprised.
    • Later Harry sitting on the tree sees through the window as Lucy pleasures David in the same scene he also sees his wife making out with her lover, falls off the tree and damns his whole family.
  • Police Brutality: Harry suffers of it in one episode when two policemen rough him up but as this film is an eccentric comedy, the subject is immediately dropped and forgotten.
  • Porn Stache: For the lover of Bettina.
  • Title Drop: The word "bliss" is mentioned in the voiceover monologue in the beginning narrating about the Harry Joy's death. The clinical one
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the ending Harry Joy who actually narrates the story as a very old man never mentions where is Barbara now stopping his relation at the moment when he manages to reconquer her. It is implied that he survived her even though she is definitely much younger. Of course Harry is not at all interested in what happened to his children of the previous marriage, Lucy and David.