Virgil Bliss (2001) Poster

(2001)

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Virgil's Bliss?
crypticcrytic28 February 2002
Bliss is an apt surname for this man-child whose criminality began in his elementary school years and finished up with graduate studies in Rikers, NYC. Expect a hardened criminal, cynical posture and an impenetrable veneer? You'll find a mannerly southern boy trying to do the right things on the road to recovery.

Virgil is a sympathetic character released, after a brief decompression in a halfway house, to a city beyond his comprehension. Since his New York experience was all in a jail, he's thinking his small town instincts will serve him well here. Unaffected by prison mores, his re-entry is hastened by his unreformed roommate determined to accustom Virgil to the culture of NYC (mean) streets.

Transitions are always painful but our hero is blessed with incremental success. The quest to overcome his past, reform the wayward and recover his long lost integrity is the fascinating struggle that keeps the story rolling. The odds of success are slim but Virgil is not the typical ex-con. And 'Virgil Bliss' is not your typical morality tale. The title role is portrayed by Clint Jordan whose training prepared him with real prison time. Watch for more from this talent and hope that this vehicle gets the mileage to move him on.

Virgil's incremental progress is hindered by the excre-mental patients who inhabit the world of the ex-con and illustrate the problem of recidivism even for the most determined felon. And the viewer is left with the task of solving this conundrum.

Are you up to it?
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flawless character definition
jmorgan816 April 2004
As a fan of gritty, street-life character studies I looked forward to watching this film for quite a while before it hit the Sundance Channel. As I watched the story unfold it became harder and harder to distinguish between the actors and the roles they were portraying. It's obvious that bad things are going to happen but nothing prepared me for what eventually happened in the end. I was left wondering for days afterwards what happened to these people after the cameras stopped rolling. That doesn't happen often in films for me these days.

While it's sad to say that some people can never change it's also obvious after watching Virgil try to change his life for the better that some people have just not got a chance in this world. Sometimes wanting to be good is not always enough.

Throw in an alcoholic, dimebag hooker as a love interest along with other destitute sociopaths such as pimps, goombahs, ex-cons and the like and it's just sometimes too much to bear. Watching Virgil try to heal Ruby's addictive personality with his unconditional love and affection is just downright painful stuff. The only time he can break down her defenses is when she's so wasted that she's an imminent threat to Virgil's new-gained freedom and sobriety. It explained a lot for me why people in bad situations make things worse with drug and alcohol abuse. Sometimes it's the only way to feel human again.

Anyway, there's a lot going on in this film besides Virgil's love interests. A lot of forces are gnawing at him every day, coaxing him to fail. it's really impossible to guess what which one will do him in. Everyone in this film deserves fame and respect for their treatment of their character roles. Great stuff, just make sure you're not feeling lonely before you watch this movies as it's probably going to make you feel a lot worse.
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f***ing scary
strangerer15 October 2002
I can't watch the whole thing in one setting. It's real enough that it reminds me deeply of the life that I have been lucky enough to get out of but regret that so many people still live there. Well done to all. But what is the purpose? What do we walk away with? The movie is good enough to make me wonder and worry about such questions. Hope lots other see it and have similar thoughts.
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10/10
Raw Raw Raw! or Why Joe Maggio is My New Indie Film God
bob_meg23 January 2011
I'd never seen a film by NYC indie filmmaker Joe Maggio before until I watched a double feature of his new film "Bitter Feast" paired with "Virgil Bliss." Both films were exceptional but the real find is this $700 wonder from 2001.

First and foremost are the performances from the three principals, namely Kirsten Russell, whose Ruby easily diminishes the term "Hard as Nails" into an understatement. When she first meets our title character, played with a poignant down-to-earth realism by Clint Jordan, she laughs in his face. She's a dime-hooker who camps out in some of the skeezier parts of New York, nursing a drug problem, and fooling herself into thinking she'll ever see the child she has long bartered away in the process.

The power Russell brings to this role cannot be oversold. You should have every reason to hate this character, but somehow you don't. She plays the role so well that as her rock hardened heart begins to thaw you can't help but have the same (almost ridiculous) hope that Virgil has of making her love herself. A scene where she finally allows herself to bask in his love --- she has to do it in the privacy of their bathroom, fondling and wearing one of his shirts --- could be taught in an acting class.

Anthony Gorman brings a scary vicariousness to the part of Virgil's ex-halfway house roommate --- a perpetual Hell's Angel wannabe who desperately needs someone to make him feel better about himself.

Maggio's writing is superlative. This is a "standard" Straight Time-type story. You know Virgil's in for a rough ride, and everything he encounters rings with just the right amount of toughness, not overplaying the hand for sensationalism's sake but vivid enough to make it all seem too frighteningly real.

This is not a slick movie. There is nothing feel-good or commercial about it. No, it's guerrilla filmmaking John Cassevetes would be proud of and there ain't enough of it, for my taste.
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Kinda' sad, kinda disturbing, Good movie!
jyl200211 October 2004
Caught it on Sundance, didn't expect to watch the whole thing but it was pretty good, surprisingly touching. They could have picked better looking actors for the movie but I guess they wanted to "keep it real."

None of the fancy "Hollywood touch-ups" and all that b.s. Throughout the movie you just want to shout out, "Virgil, stop being an idiot!" But reality is, some people can't help it. Accounts for the high rate of recidivism I suppose.

Good job on the part played by Virgil Bliss, don't know his real name. I suppose he's the director and put himself in the starring role or something.

Good job on keepin' it real!
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7/10
Raw and Honest
William Speruzzi14 December 2003
"Virgil Bliss" was a film I've been meaning to see for some time now. It was a pick at the IFP Market a few years back that I attended with my own script but never got to see. Finally I did on IFC around 1:00 in the morning. What really stood out for me in this film is what stood out in another film by Joe Maggio, "Milk and Honey". The performances. Clint Jordan plays the troubled man-child just released from Rikers. In the beginning I thought it was a strange pairing of this "southern boy" in a NYC maximum security prison but after the rules were established of who this person was I found myself a part of his experience. His experience is a inevitable journey through the hard, cold reality of an ex-con set free to live in the dead end world of starting back at square one. The object of his innocent desire is Ruby, a ten dollar a blow job prostitute played amazingly by Kirsten Russel. The prostitute role in film is a dime a dozen but to see it played believably is rare. She's troubled and she is trouble. Virgil has no chance after he's released. All the elements of the outside world drag him back into the belly of the beast. We know he is doomed and yet we watch anyway because maybe just maybe this good intentioned career criminal might escape the life he has been apart of for so long.
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9/10
A gritty, real drama
Rich Coleman11 April 2003
This is a great indie film. All movie buffs should really give it a shot if they have a chance. Be warned though, if you are easily depressed by people that have it worse off than you, then you shouldn't watch it. My parents and I watched this film and they were horrified. This movie should be viewed by realists.

The acting is superb. The camera handling is great. An all around great movie. 9/10
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10/10
Thanks to Sundance for This One!
Mark J. Repp2 March 2003
As a subscriber of DIRECTV, I had the good fortune to see this film on Sundance, as well as another very low budget film shot on DV tape called "First, Last & Deposit" on IFC (Independent Film Channel). These are two offerings that I never would have seen on the big screen, much less have been able to rent on tape or DVD. It made me feel fortunate that cable channels like Sundance & IFC exist for those viewers who crave challenging films with a dramatic, realistic punch. The acting in "Virgil Bliss" alone is absolutely stunning and will stay with you long after you've seen it. As a few others have pointed out, this film may not receive enough exposure to give actors Clint Jordan or Kirsten Russell their "big break", but trust me, if you've seen this little gem, you will remember them. You may see this film by accident. I doubt that Sundance will promote it the way that HBO would a "Men In Black II" or an Adam Sandler film, but if you get another chance, see it and remember it. "Virgil Bliss" is so gritty and realistic that it passes for a shot-on-videotape docu-drama, but it's much more. You will root for Virgil, and you will accept Ruby. You will remember these characters and understand them. The acting you will never forget. Let's hope it receives recognition beyond the select group of viewers who have seen it so far. If it does, let's give thanks to fearless film-makers like Joe Maggio and vehicles in which to see their work, like IFC & Sundance. Amen.
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Must see.
jtur8818 February 2002
Warning: Spoilers
(Possible spoilers) This is a crown jewel in the indies. An assemblage of people with only a sniff of previous credits have made a beautiful film. It requires a mood in which you can accept a film in which your hopes are only tangentially but ephemerally realized. The acting is right on (Virgil was a little too polished for me, but Ruby is so lock-step in character, I fear that she can only disappoint in the future, by virtue of being only human) and the flow of the script never stumbles over the hand-held pans.
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10/10
An engrossing blend of themes
treston28 February 2002
This film is so authentic, it plays like a documentary. You need to remind yourself these are actors working from a script. The story called to mind the pathos of "Panic In Needle Park" as well as the obsessive and destructive relationship in "Of Human Bondage." A truly excellent job all around. I hope to see these people again. Mr. Maggio should be duly proud of his work.
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8/10
A near perfect "indie".
George Parker21 March 2002
"Virgil Bliss" tells the story of a revolving door criminal who is released from Rikers to the streets of NYC where we watch his best intentions to go straight dissolve before our eyes. Maggio tells a moving and believable story and delivers a message about social ills while working with the obvious limitations of the truly independent film maker...no small accomplishment. Pound for pound, "Virgil Bliss" is more movie than most of the stuff coming from Hollywood studios. Viewers, however, should be advised the subject matter is gritty and not pleasant. Recommended for realists only.
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9/10
A Beautifully Touching Film
atomic_age579 February 2010
I really had to keep reminding myself that I was actually watching a MOVIE, and not experiencing a real scenario. The acting is absolutely STUNNING; the characters of Virgil and Ruby are so incredibly realistic that you will forget these are actually actors and not real people. I felt that Virgil and Ruby were soul mates, but due to the hopeless circumstances on which their relationship was based, their union was doomed from the start. This movie is what independent film-making is all about; Virgil Bliss will solidify the fact that regardless of your budget, if you get the right talent, the right director and writer, you can make a masterpiece! 9 out of 10.
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8/10
Very Touching Film!
Jan Lisa Huttner18 February 2002
Like the series OZ at its very best, this is a film about the deep humanity of people trapped by the combination of temperament & circumstance. Virgil struggles heroically against the forces dragging him down, & you can't help rooting for him no matter how slim his chances are. Few of "us" (the constituency of IMDb) are losers, but most of us probably know people who are. It's important to remember how thin the line can be between success & failure, how hard it is to keep trying when the deck looks stacked against you.

Virgil's story is grim and gritty, but Maggio & Jordan make him a man who touches our hearts. Virgil, wherever you are, may the Force be with you! We'll both be sending good thoughts your way on 3/23/02 (the night the Independent Spirit Awards are announced).
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