Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Trouble with Bliss

Why is it always the tone-deaf screenwriters who never shut up? There’s about 90 minutes of prattle in director Michael Knowles’ dreary and droopy-lidded 97-minute bomb about Morris Bliss (Michael C. Hall), a reactive-to-the-point-of-inertia thirtysomething who seems to do nothing but bump into quirky characters and get back into bed (which we watch him do... half a dozen times). Not one nanosecond of one scene, not one line of dialogue bears any relation to anything any flesh-and-blood person has ever said, or would say.

Lucy Liu plays a neighbor who works in marketing. She asks Morris to test a product, “you know that Mexican food, with the tomatoes and the white stuff.” “Salsa?” he asks. “Yeah, salsa.” An 18-year-old girl makes out with Morris once and sticks around the entire picture, subjecting us to monologues of skin-crawling verbosity and phoniness. “Did you bring me Brie?” he asks her. “No, it’s cheese. I think it’s French.” Have you stopped convulsing with laughter? These are New Yorkers, mind you, where kindergarteners know their Brie from their Camembert. The people in this movie are not only cheap fakes, they’re so dim as to be virtually non-functional.

Everyone in this movie is defined by his or her quirks. Where in a well-written movie a verbal tic – such as Annie Hall’s adorable “lah-di-dah” – can enhance and encapsulate the charm of a well-drawn character, in “The Trouble with Bliss” affectation replaces character. (Lucy Liu throws “right?” on the end of every sentence, which just makes her seem even less intelligent and real.) There are some smart and talented people involved in the making of this film. Did they never sit down and watch the dailies? Yearn for the characters to just stop talking? Smell the desperation?

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