Pic opens with the death of Harry Joy (Barry Otto), its central character. He runs an ad agency and leads an apparently happy life with wife and two children. A heart attack fells him during a family gathering, and he’s dead for four minutes. When he recovers, he believes he has entered Hell.
That’s because everything seems to have changed. His loving wife (Lynette Curran) is having an open affair with his sleazy business partner (Jeff Truman); his son (Miles Buchanan) is a drug runner with ambitions to join the mafia; his daughter (Gia Carides) is an addict who gives her brother sexual favors to get free dope; and Harry discovers, too, that his biggest client manufacturers products known to cause cancer. Faced with these unexpected upheavals, Harry goes a little mad.
The biggest flaw in Bliss is the way the novel has been adapted by its author, Peter Carey, and director Ray Lawrence. The best films of difficult books (and Bliss was a difficult book) have pared down the source material while keeping the spirit and intention of the original. Carey and Lawrence have left nothing out; the film teems with characters.