People often settle and feel content with their lives, not realizing they’re not fully following their dreams until they go through a life-changing experience. This is certainly the case with the title character, Morris Bliss, in the new comedy-drama The Trouble With Bliss. After a chance encounter with the 18-year-old daughter of one his high school friends, Morris realizes that he has to take more chances and not care so much about what other people think in order to fully discover who he truly is. In order to move on with his life and not stay stuck in the past, Morris decides to take chances he previously would have never considered.
The Trouble With Bliss follows the 35-year-old Morris (Michael C. Hall) as he struggles with finding his identity, and where he wants to take his life. He wants to travel, but doesn’t have any money, as he’s currently unemployed. Morris also shares an apartment in New York City’s East Village with his widowed father, Seymour (Peter Fonda), who treats his son with disdain.
Morris inexplicably finds himself in a sexual relationship with Stephanie Jouseski (Brie Larson), the 18-year-old daughter of his former high school classmate Steven (Brad William Henke). While deciding how to break off the relationship without Steven finding out, Morris is also pursued by his married neighbor Andrea (Lucy Liu). While his life is unraveling before him, Morris realizes that he’s learning more about himself now than ever before.
Basing the film’s script on Douglas Light’s novel East Street Bliss, co-writer/director Michael Knowles perfectly captures every adult’s fear of not knowing what they truly want in life, or how to obtain it. The character of Morris is the perfect epitome of many taboos in society, including living with a parent as an adult, not having a job and most importantly, entering forbidden sexual relationships, including with a married woman and the much younger daughter of a friend. Morris doesn’t know what kind of job or relationship he truly wants, allowing him not to make any choices or the wrong decision, so he doesn’t have to take full responsibility for the outcomes in his life.
Morris’ seemingly coincidental relationship with Stephanie subtly reflects the lack of emotional development and maturity he has experienced since graduating from high school. Stephanie embodies Steven’s joking matter and take-charge attitude, which Morris subconsciously was attracted to, due to its familiarity. When he finds out that she is Steven’s son, he only tries to end the relationship because he knows his high school friend wouldn’t be accepting of it; he doesn’t think anything’s wrong with being with Stephanie until he finds out who her father is. Morris only begins considering changing his life choices once he begins talking to Steven again, proving that one seemingly innocent encounter can change a person’s outlook on life.
Actually filming The Trouble With Bliss on location in New York’s East Village was a wise decision on Knowles’ part. While the comedy-drama is an independent film that lacks the big budget of larger studio movies, the filmmaker used the authentic locations to his advantage. Both Knowles and Hall have previously lived in the East Village, allowing the actor to embody the motivations and desires of the local community.
Morris genuinely wants to find a career he’s interested in, move out of his father’s apartment and start a meaningful, true relationship that doesn’t include any restrictions. He feels that the only way he can truly find himself and his destiny, however, is to travel and distance himself from his everyday life. Morris’ need to reflect on his life realistically portrays many people’s aspiration to discover who they truly are and what they’re meant to do with their lives.
The Trouble With Bliss successfully takes a bold look at the motivations and actions of a man struggling to find his place in life. While Hall is primarily known for his portrayal of the title serial killer on his hit Showtime series Dexter, the actor proves how relatable he truly is with his emotional performance of the vulnerable, yet somewhat immature, Morris.
The Trouble With Bliss was released on March 23, 2012.