Lance Young wrote and directed "Bliss." According to IMDb, it's his his only writing or directing credit. He is competent as a director and brilliant at writing and directing tastefully erotic love scenes. But his script should have earned an F in any advanced scriptwriting class. Anybody who put time or money into this project after reading this script was either desperate or stupid.
I think his hope was to write a wrenching psychodrama like "The Three Faces of Eve." But the script has a maddening lack of focus, as if he was trying to write three or more short movies about the same group of characters instead of one coherent work. A lot of the movie is a sex romp about a sex therapist gone rogue, which was considered a funny setup in 1997, when the movie was released. And there's a love story about the troubled woman's husband who will go to any lengths (to the point of absurdity, in my opinion) to try to rescue his wife. And there's a lot of talk devoted to tantric sex, a theme that is abandoned. Another promising subject that is abandoned is how Joseph's motivation may not be to save his wife but to mold her. And Young worked in a diatribe about the horrible effects of women obsessed with their physical appearance, which actually has nothing to do with the wife's problems. And there's a superfluous scene of dancing, but I can forgive that one because it's so nicely photographed, so joyful and with its own kind of gentle eroticism. And then there are the tastefully erotic love scenes, of which only one is borderline gratuitous. Their prominence, however, might suggest that Young's primary goal in the script was to craft a legitimate reason to film beautiful people in tastefully erotic love scenes -- not that he would ever acknowledge such a motivation. It is worth noting that according to IMDb, explicit shots were removed to avoid an NC-17 rating.
A ridiculous coincidence and huge plot holes make this mess of a script even worse.
About the only thing Young got right in the script was the clever naming of the characters. The couple is Joseph and Maria (the Latin and Spanish version of Mary), which reference Jesus' earthly parents--with Joseph as adoptive father. Using Maria instead of Mary suggests "West Side Story," which in turn suggests "Romeo and Juliet." At one point, in a totally unbelievable foray into Elizabethan-era English, Joseph jokingly calls his wife Juliet. The rogue therapist's name is Baltazar (last name, I believe), which in legend was the name of one of the three wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. The rogue therapist as a "wise man" can be taken at face value if you believe in him, or as a bitter joke if you think he's an abuser or a fraud. I also like the movie title, which ironically suggests the marital bliss that is lacking in this marriage.
I suppose Terence Stamp shows some skill as the courtly sex therapist, or maybe he's just playing himself, I don't know. Sheryl Lee does a creditable job with her all-over-the-map character, which does show her versatility. She does an excellent job with a couple of emotional scenes near the end that rise above the general confusion. Craig Sheffer has the hardest acting assignment as the comparatively sane and ordinary person in the triangle. He is a competent straight man but not compelling. But in my view, the best actors, designers, and cinematographers in the world would probably be doomed to mediocrity by this script.