People often struggle to find their true purpose with life, and what paths they should be following, as they feel pressure to live up to other’s expectations. This is certainly the case with the title character in the new drama ‘The Trouble with Bliss,’ which is now playing in select theaters. In the Michael Knowles-directed and written film, 35-year-old Morris Bliss (played by Michal C. Hall) struggles to find his identity, as he’s unemployed and lives with his father, Seymour (portrayed by Peter Fonda).
With his father looking at him in disdain, Morris finds himself in a sexual relationship with 18-year-old Stephanie Jouseski (played by Brie Larson), the daughter of his former high school classmate, Steven (portrayed by Brad William Henke). While trying to figure out how to end the relationship before Steven finds out about it, Morris is also pursued by his married neighbor, Andrea (played by Lucy Liu). Morris realizes that despite his dilemmas, he’s finally figuring out what he wants to do with his life.
Knowles generously took the time to discusses what it was like shooting ‘The Trouble with Bliss’ in New York City’s East Village with us over the phone. The filmmaker, who lived in the neighborhood for almost 13 years, also spoke about how he became involved in the movie, and how Hall came to appear as the title character.
Written by: Karen Benardello
ShockYa (SY): You wrote the screenplay for ‘The Trouble with Bliss,’ basing it on Douglas Light’s novel ‘East Street Bliss.’ What was it about the book that convinced you to write and direct the film, and how much knowledge did you have of Douglas’ story before you took on the project?
Michael Knowles (MK): Well, Douglas Light and I actually co-wrote the screenplay, so we adapted his novel together. I had read his novel, because Douglas and I go to the same cigar lounge in the East Village here in New York City. So we kind of know each other, and I knew he wrote this novel. I read it, and I asked him, hey, do you want to make this into a movie, and we’ll write the screenplay together?
So I was really familiar with the material from the very beginning. I loved the story and the characters. I felt that they were funny. I felt there was something quirky and funny about the whole story and the characters. Yet there was something really touching with the father-son relationship. So I felt there was something there, and nice methods to it all. But it was told in a way that it was subtle, so I enjoyed it.
SY: What was Douglas’ reaction when you first told him you wanted to work on the movie with him? Did he immediately embrace the idea?
MK: Yeah, actually he did. Initially, I didn’t immediately say that I would direct it. I just started with the notion that we would write the screenplay first. I was never completely attached to it, and said, okay, I have to direct this. It was more like, if it makes sense at any moment, I would be the director.
But if the script had gotten to a big name director who was going to do something spectacular with it, and I felt really confident, I would have let somebody else direct it. I usually try to make decisions on what’s best for the project, and not just my own ego.
But Doug was super open to the idea right away, and I think me offering to have him write it with me was something that was appealing, because he wanted to learn about the screenwriting process. So I think he was pretty excited about it.
SY: When did you actually decide to direct the film? Was it after you wrote the script, or when you were in the process of writing it?
MK: No, it wasn’t actually until the point when Michael C. Hall got on board. I said, that’s it, I’m directing it. I was really the one who got him attached to the project. I realized, I know this script inside and out. It just made sense for me at that point.
Up until then, we always approached it as, when we let people know about it, we said Michael Knowles isn’t necessarily attached. He can step up at any moment and direct it, if it makes sense.
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