Film Review: Blind

Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore tumble into a tepid romance in this subdued, scattered drama.
Specialty Releases

In one corner of the remote melodrama Blind, Alec Baldwin stars as Bill Oakland, the sight-impaired, bellicose author of such flamboyantly titled literary fare as Throw It on the Line for Venus. A revered writer and college professor, Oakland inspires fear and awe in students and fans, though a recent wrenching loss has robbed him of his own artistic ambition. Reluctantly, he takes on young Gavin O’Connor (Steven Prescod, in a strong feature film debut), a nervy wannabe-writer, as his protégé. Somewhere south of Finding Forrester and east of Wonder Boys, mentor and pupil might impart to one another the inspiration that both are missing.

This somewhat mawkish corner of Blind is none too original, but Baldwin brings to the part an impish humor and the charm of an avid listener, which, understandably, Oakland has learned to be since the accident that cost him his vision. Loose and reactive, Baldwin sparks a compelling rapport with Prescod and with Eden Epstein as Ella, the ultra-officious but not unkind coordinator of the Beacon Center for the Blind, where Oakland goes—or resides, it’s not entirely clear—to have his students’ papers read to him by volunteers and those sentenced to community service.

Which brings up another distant corner of this picture, more luxurious than the Beacon, where women are trophies to be won and Demi Moore stars as Suzanne Dutchman, the pampered, varnished wife of wildly successful investment funds manager, Mark. As embodied by Dylan McDermott in a well-financed wardrobe, Mark is equally varnished, though neck-deep in some shady Big Pharma deals, and unfortunately he was fooling around with funds from the family account. So when the feds pinch him, Suzanne is implicated, arrested and sentenced to community service at the Beacon Center, whereupon the hothouse flower might rediscover her soul as a result of direct exposure to art, culture and affection, i.e., Bill Oakland.

In her downbeat corner of the story, Moore doesn’t elevate the material, but she finds natural, revealing moments of Suzanne’s awakening to play along the relatively flat and straight course of the character’s comeuppance. She seems to be conveying a woman who’s only just realized that her handsome husband is a heel, and Moore manages to keep Suzanne from looking stupidly blind to Mark’s true colors, despite McDermott’s concerted efforts to unmask the guy’s oiliness at almost every turn. Director Michael Mailer, helming his first feature after a lengthy career as a producer, also overplays the vacuousness of the Dutchmans, who are written and photographed like lovebirds in a jewelry ad.

The true lovebirds here are Oakland and Suzanne, meaning a romantic onscreen reunion of the stars of the Razzie-winning 1996 thriller The Juror. Moore and Baldwin together project warmth, but their chemistry doesn’t smolder, even when, upon first meeting her, Oakland puts down Suzanne so decisively, it’s clear they’ll be embracing before too many montages. However, there’s little basis underpinning their pairing. They bond over her distinctive Muguet des Bois perfume, but they don’t seem attracted to, or particularly interested in, one another.

Suzanne continues enduring grueling visits with Mark in prison and contemplating his possible extramarital affairs, while Oakland, Gavin and Ella have their fun in a different corner of Manhattan. Oakland and Suzanne occupy different circles and only occasionally intersecting storylines, which might be true to life but plays out disconcertingly in what purports to be a film about their shared story. Baldwin and Moore, independently, are compelling, but they’re walking around separate films that coalesce only when the two share scenes and otherwise diverge remarkably in tone, humor and sense of purpose.

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