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I watched this movie recently on cable and don't understand all the negative criticism. This movie got a 3 by IMDB voters. Even an arcade game style movie totally devoid of any substance or character (or screenplay) such as Armagaedon or Pearl Harbor has a higher rating.
This movie is at least 7 years ahead of it's time. Back in the years around the time this movie was released in theatres and video, Republican values and general complacency people were experiencing (in the US at least) were causing them to not see the problems related to by many young people. Blind to many problems experienced by a large number of people in this country; blind to the problems many experienced within themselves even.
After highly publicized high school shootings, an increased voice in media reflecting violence and anguish among young people, and generally a change in societal thinking more toward humanistic (or important; opposite of mater ialistic) values/perspective, now in 2002 this movie may fully be understood and seen with an empathy or not attacked with a gut/knee jerk reaction as I see a lot of these criticisms of this movie to be. The low budget production values of this movie will cause a lot of people to hate it anyway though.
I think the main problem with this movie is people see the characters in this movie as an endorsement by the screenwriter/director. That the characters are an indulgent reflection of the screenwriter/director; they have a tendancy to see the repugnant myopicism of the characters and their actions and fail to see the larger picture of the movie. Many of the characters in Terminal Bliss are similiar to the people I went to high school with: Rich, arrogant, spoiled and shallow. This is a criticism and satire of upper middle class suburban high school life; it is a criticism and satire just by showing them, there does not need to be a tone that says we should hate them. It takes a small amount of genius to recreate any type of people or characters in a movie with such clarity and realism. The movie is a criticism and/or reflection of environments lacking in perspective and basic humanistic values such as kindness, honesty, dignity, self respect, etc (but not lacking in things such as financial security, leisure time, Nintendo game consoles or strip mall: franchises, culture, materialism); or more bluntly put a reflection of the crappy, bored, blind, cultureless and sheltered lives many upper class people live. His showing the characters in this movie being as*holes doesn't mean he is asking for people to like to be an as*hole; or better yet to hate this movie because you hate people who are as*holes. You are supposed to hate these characters. You are supposed to feel as if this life is purposeless, apathetic, boring, and indulgent (not to mention evil for creative reasons, I would not say upper middle class people are generally any more evil than any other segment of the population).
Many of the problems I think Todd Solondz is now encountering or recently did encounter with his movies (especially Happiness) are similiar to the problems/criticism this movie must have/does encounter. Solondz wonders if his characters are a reflection of meanness or actual meanness being expressed by the creator of these characters. I think the difference is pretty significant. People tend to react negatively toward things or people in movies that are bad or a reflection of badness. This does not negate the truth of this badness; nor does it mean that this movie is trash. It simply means the traditional idea of what a movie is must be modified a little bit. This brings up greater issues than just the movie being bad. Issues that are probably too far removed from a general review of this movie to get into.
Terminal Bliss is not a great movie, but a pretty solid low budget first movie by an inexperienced director/writer(especially considering the writer/director was in his teens when he wrote/directed it). I hope people may someday see Terminal Bliss for what it is; a critical satire through the basic recreation or enviroment being shown. I am not saying you have to enjoy it but I'm saying you should see it for what it is reflecting and the truth in that reflection.
(Now reading back over this, I realize what is probably the main fault with this movie; it is unadulterated meanness with no redemption or purpose; cruelty with no kindness or no representation of another world or a redemption of any of these characters). Conflict with no resolution. But not without truth. It's worth a viewing.
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