The Trouble with Bliss

The unblissful Morris Bliss (Michael C. Hall) is the lazy, unemployed 35-year-old literary type on trial in “The Trouble with Bliss.” This poor slob is wasting away what little is left of his youth in the East Village doing nothing.

A map prominently displayed on his bedroom wall—with many pins to mark his intended destinations—telegraphs that Bliss kinda sorta dreams of adventure, like a modern-day Walter Mitty. But he still lives at home with his frustrated father (Peter Fonda), whom he still calls “Daddy” and from whom he still receives an allowance.

“The Trouble with Bliss” is another entry in the ever-growing slacker genre, covering a weekend of unusual, hopefully life-changing events for the unmotivated Bliss.

Most notably—and for no apparent reason—Bliss suddenly winds up turning on two beautiful women (Brie Larson and Lucy Liu): this is the age-old fantasy of the bumpkin who miraculously finds himself sexually magnetic.

By the end of the weekend, Bliss takes some baby steps toward not being such a big baby anymore.

Since audiences will already know mostly where this film is headed, the writing and acting have to be the compelling factors.

The screenplay, by director Michael Knowles and novelist Douglas Light (from Light’s 2007 novel “East Fifth Bliss”), sparkles here and there, especially for Larson and Liu, but dabbles too much in cuteness and often is hardly as funny as it supposes itself to be.

Larson, as Stephanie, a possibly underage femme fatale who has Bliss wrapped around her finger, gets to tell a great rat story, perhaps the film’s highlight. Liu, as oversexed neighbor Andrea, has a very funny rant about how she never wants to turn into a “shabby couch.”

But something never rings true with this script. For one, these characters, except possibly for Andrea, hardly seem to be Lower East Siders—they just lack that LES edge. In fact, they could almost be living in any small town in America.

The dysfunctional relationship between Bliss and his father, despite wonderfully subtle acting from both Hall and Fonda, is also a bit hard to buy.

All the actors in this smartly cast film—especially Hall, Fonda, Larson, and Liu—give intelligent, penetrating performances, but is there anything of consequence to the story? “The Trouble with Bliss” suffers from simply being rather unremarkable. Another slacker movie, oh well.

Cast

Morris Bliss – Michael C. Hall

NJ – Chris Messina

Stephanie Jouseski – Brie Larson

Steven “Jetski” Jouseski – Brad William Henke

Hattie Skunk/Hattie Rockworth – Sarah Shahi

Seymour Bliss – Peter Fonda

Andrea – Lucy Liu

Credits

A Variance Films release.

Directed by Michael Knowles.

Written by Michael Knowles and Douglas Light.

Produced by Michael Knowles, John Ramos, and John Will.

Cinematography, Ben Wolf.

Editing, Michael Knowles.

Original Music, Daniel Alcheh.

Running time: 97 minutes

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