Rising star Dan Stevens can't make this fascinating but flawed character study roar to life.
Things aren’t quite what they appear in “The Ticket.”
Dan Stevens (“Legion,” Beauty and the Beast”) stars as a blind man whose vision miraculously returns. Only the gift of sight comes with unintended consequences.
It’s a terrific idea for a film, and Stevens proves his rising star status isn’t marketing spin. It’s what we don’t see, ironically, that eventually sinks the story.
Stevens is James, a happily married man and father who works for a real estate agency. His blindness hasn’t stopped him from living the American dream. And yet when he wakes one day and can suddenly see, he embraces the change as a new lease on life.
He attacks his job with fresh vigor, earning praise and promotions. He takes a more hands-on approach with his son (Skylar Gaertner) both in and out of school.
James also reconsiders his relationship with wife Sam (Malin Akerman), even though they appear to have a warm, healthy bond.
Could regaining his sight be a blessing or a curse?
“The Ticket” skimps on the medical side of James’ saga. A pituitary tumor he had since he was young apparently shifted or shrank, releasing pressure on the optic nerve. It’s not given much more attention than that, and that’s fine.
There’s a parable in play, and so biological explanations aren’t required. What is, though, are the kind of character portraits to make morality lessons pop.
Just who is James, anyway? He’s a loving dad who isn’t concerned about what a potential affair with a co-worker (an underused Kerry Bishe) might do to that father-son bond. He shakes off the wisdom of a blind co-worker (Oliver Platt) in ways that hardly make him sympathetic.
His real estate firm leans on the predatory side, but his only worry is over the company’s image, not output. He’s a hard guy to root for, and that’s a big strike against the movie. That’s true even when he starts feeling the repercussions of his actions.
Redemption tales this heavy on suffering are a chore, to be blunt.
FAST FACT: Dan Stevens served as a judge for the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2012. The task demanded he read 145 novels over a modest period of time.
The screenplay touches on faith in a respectful fashion, but like so many other elements in play it’s done in a cursory fashion. Just what role does God play in James’ life? At times it seems critical, and yet few of his actions reflect that belief system.
Director Ido Fluk (screenwriter of “The Abandoned”) entrusts the audience to piece together a great deal of the story. When James considers an affair we’re left to stitch together beats other filmmakers would reveal. A warning from Sam about his intentions is all we’re handed to suggest James’ immediate future.
That sequence is brilliant in its efficiency. We still need more in other, more critical areas.
Stevens strains to fill in the considerable gaps. He handles the moment when his sight is restored with restraint and wonder. He conveys the perks of his regained sight in keen strokes.
A simple sequence with him combing his hair, taking that unruly mop and making it look model-like, evokes his new reality. He’s not just a sighted man, but a rather handsome one.
And yet too many sequences simply fail him … and us.
HiT or Miss: “The Ticket” might have been a rigorous morality tale for our secular age. Instead, it’s more maddening than anything else.