The Trouble With Bliss is both a funny and touching dramedy that while not the first movie to ever enter the world of the coming-of-age genre, still manages to stand on its own two feet. The story, which is based on Douglas Light’s novel, East Fifth Bliss, has largely been met with mixed reviews by critics and audiences alike. More than likely the reason for those mixed reviews is that while the story isn’t the first of the coming-of-age genre, it doesn’t exactly fit into the standard mold of said style. The concept of an unemployed thirty-something living at home with his father while dating an eighteen-year old is humorous. But what sets the story apart from others in its genre is its ability to balance that quirky standard story with the deeper and more emotional father-son dynamic, which is ultimately at the heart of the entire story. Though, this isn’t made entirely clear until the story’s end. This perhaps is what led to so many critics and viewers panning this underrated story.
The Trouble With Bliss is an underrated story in that it’s one of those works that isn’t spoon-fed to viewers. Audiences think they know everything about Morris’ blissfully (get the title now?) ignorant lifestyle through most of the movie. But it isn’t until the story’s end that viewers discover that instead of living in bliss, he has been living in denial all along. That denial is centered in his relationship—or lack thereof—with his father (played by Peter Fonda). He isn’t stuck at home with his father. He has made the choice to live there. It can be argued in understanding this and looking back at the story that it is his mother not being there that has led Morris to be living with his father at thirty-five years old and dating an eighteen-year old. Having only had his father for parental guidance through his youth, that was all that Morris ever knew. So it became his comfort zone. Understanding this makes Morris something of an underdog type of figure; a sympathetic character so to speak. He becomes a figure that audiences might not have rooted for had they not had this knowledge. What really makes his an underdog figure in hindsight is why his mother is not in the picture. That reveal in the story’s final minutes is perhaps the culmination of everything that audiences experienced leading up to that point.
Some audiences might ask if this is the case, why he started acting as an adult before that moment. The answer is that what happened as a result of his interactions with Stephanie and Andrea was just the catalyst that he had needed to start realizing and growing as a person. His whole life up until that point was ignorant bliss. Finally having been faced with a situation that forced him out of his comfort zone, it acted as a kick in the pants so to speak. That eventually lead to the deepest center of what had led to his first introduction to audiences. The result is that it leads to hindsight among audiences and in turn will lead them to see he’s really quite the underdog character. And in understanding all of this one can only hope that those who criticized the movie will take all of this hindsight and give the movie a second chance and see it for the underrated and underappreciated work that it is.
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