Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: The Trouble with Bliss

Indie pap, populated by determinedly eccentric characters you don’t give a toss about.

March 22, 2012

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1321798-Trouble_Bliss_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Thirty-five-year-old New Yorker Morris Bliss (Michael C. Hall) leads the ultimate loser life, living with his abusive, alcoholic widowed father Seymour (Peter Fonda). Haunted by his dead mother and with no money or job, he aimlessly slacks around town, but this dearth of assets doesn’t prevent women from throwing themselves at him, like 18-year-old Stephanie (Brie Larson), whose father, troublesomely enough, happens to be a former classmate of Morris, Steven “Jetski” Jouseski (Brad William Henke), and his aggressive neighbor Andrea (Lucy Liu), who already has a scary muscle-bound partner she is bent on making jealous. Then there is Morris’ buddy NJ (Chris Messina), fanatically devoted to overthrowing Third World governments.

Director Michael Knowles adapted the screenplay for The Trouble with Bliss from Douglas Light’s novel, with the help of Light himself, but nothing onscreen registers with any kind of literary distinction. Why, exactly, we are supposed to care about Morris’ life unraveling due to the collisions of these various personalities is a mystery, as this spineless protagonist remains desperately uninteresting throughout. Hall, who has shown that he can illuminate quirky characters in his past work, is utterly defeated here. (It doesn’t help that he is given to calling his father “Daddy.”) Everyone he encounters behaves with such strenuous eccentricity that they cancel one another out and merely induce viewer fatigue, when not overtly annoying you.

For all the sex that’s depicted here, the film isn’t very sexy. Larson throws herself voraciously into the role of Stephanie, wriggling suggestively in her Catholic schoolgirl uniform, and emerges as a manic variation on a faded antediluvian hetero-male fantasy. Likewise a man-eater type, Liu comes off as shrill and abrasive. (“Having trouble getting it in?” is her lame come-on line to Morris, struggling his door key.) Henke is beginning to seem too familiar already from his many indie appearances and Messina is merely irritating, but Fonda manages to convey some respectable gravitas under the circumstances, perhaps basing his frigidly distant character on his own father, Henry. (It is to be remembered that he titled his autobiography Don’t Tell Dad).



Film Review: The Trouble with Bliss

Indie pap, populated by determinedly eccentric characters you don’t give a toss about.

March 22, 2012

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1321798-Trouble_Bliss_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Thirty-five-year-old New Yorker Morris Bliss (Michael C. Hall) leads the ultimate loser life, living with his abusive, alcoholic widowed father Seymour (Peter Fonda). Haunted by his dead mother and with no money or job, he aimlessly slacks around town, but this dearth of assets doesn’t prevent women from throwing themselves at him, like 18-year-old Stephanie (Brie Larson), whose father, troublesomely enough, happens to be a former classmate of Morris, Steven “Jetski” Jouseski (Brad William Henke), and his aggressive neighbor Andrea (Lucy Liu), who already has a scary muscle-bound partner she is bent on making jealous. Then there is Morris’ buddy NJ (Chris Messina), fanatically devoted to overthrowing Third World governments.

Director Michael Knowles adapted the screenplay for The Trouble with Bliss from Douglas Light’s novel, with the help of Light himself, but nothing onscreen registers with any kind of literary distinction. Why, exactly, we are supposed to care about Morris’ life unraveling due to the collisions of these various personalities is a mystery, as this spineless protagonist remains desperately uninteresting throughout. Hall, who has shown that he can illuminate quirky characters in his past work, is utterly defeated here. (It doesn’t help that he is given to calling his father “Daddy.”) Everyone he encounters behaves with such strenuous eccentricity that they cancel one another out and merely induce viewer fatigue, when not overtly annoying you.

For all the sex that’s depicted here, the film isn’t very sexy. Larson throws herself voraciously into the role of Stephanie, wriggling suggestively in her Catholic schoolgirl uniform, and emerges as a manic variation on a faded antediluvian hetero-male fantasy. Likewise a man-eater type, Liu comes off as shrill and abrasive. (“Having trouble getting it in?” is her lame come-on line to Morris, struggling his door key.) Henke is beginning to seem too familiar already from his many indie appearances and Messina is merely irritating, but Fonda manages to convey some respectable gravitas under the circumstances, perhaps basing his frigidly distant character on his own father, Henry. (It is to be remembered that he titled his autobiography Don’t Tell Dad).
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here