There's no kind way of getting around the fact that, in following the non-adventures of its flat and listless protagonist, The Trouble with Bliss ends up being nothing more than a flat and listless viewing experience, lightly peppered here and there with a few promising moments.
Morris Bliss (Michael C. Hall) is in his mid-thirties. He's yet to leave the nest, still living at home with his father (Peter Fonda). And, as the film opens, he's just begun an affair with a teenager named Stephanie (Brie Larson), who happens to be the daughter of a guy called "Jetski" (Brad William Henke), an old friend from high school.
As lives go, Morris' is a bit of a nonstarter. He's got a map in his bedroom with push-pins marking all the places he hopes to visit one day. He prefers taking the handouts his father begrudgingly gives him to looking for work; Fonda's pitch-perfect here and the scenes between him and Hall hint at a complexity that the film fails to deliver in the end.
There's really nothing that Morris seems all that interested in chasing. Even the women (yeah, that's Lucy Liu in the mix, as a flirtatious neighbor) he becomes involved with don't motivate him as much as inexplicably fall in his lap. In the world presented here, the ladies apparently can't resist the downbeat and helpless man-child type.
All of which would be fine if there was at least some urgency or momentum built into the story. But Michael Knowles and Douglas Light's screenplay, based on Light's novel East Fifth Bliss, seems more interested in painting its characters into corners early in the film, defining them before sealing them forever in amber; these are people incapable of evolution.
There's an abundance of films out there that deal with issues of arrested development, some are even quite good (Heavy or Trees Lounge, for instance). The Trouble with Bliss just doesn't know what to do with its sad and quirky observations on a static life.
The Trouble with Bliss starts its run at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, April 20th. More info here.
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