Film Review: ‘Blind’

'Blind' Review: A Cliched Love Story

Demi Moore and Alec Baldwin play Manhattanites forced together by adversity in this muted drama.

In 1996 Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore starred in “The Juror,” an uninspired thriller (with the unfortunate ad line “There is no defense”) in which she played a single mom  blackmailed by his Mafia hitman into swaying the jury she’s on, lest he kill her son. Both actors had just passed the crest of their brief big-screen stardom, though that wasn’t necessarily evident at the time, even if “The Juror” certainly didn’t help keep them at the top.

Two decades later, Baldwin is something of an institution — albeit mostly for TV comedy, not a path one would have anticipated back then — while Moore, though she’s worked sporadically, feels like a missing person in any recent pop-culture census. The difference in their career arcs can be attributed to many things, an obvious one being Hollywood’s greater willingness to grant a second act to male stars who’ve aged out of their initial hunkdom, as opposed to women who outgrow ingenue roles.

It’s safe to say that their pairing in the new film “Blind” isn’t a reprise anyone was clamoring for and won’t stir any great excitement on its own. This slick but muted drama — a first directorial feature for producer Michael Mailer, written by actor/playwright John Buffalo Mailer, both sons of late literary maverick Norman — reunites the actors in a (somewhat) less pulpy-melodramatic context. This time the emphasis is more on midlife romance than suspense. But the amour is as unconvincing as the tension is underdeveloped. The result is a watchable, albeit unsatisfying, vehicle for two stars who’ve now made a pair of movies together in which their skills constitute the main attraction, yet who aren’t particularly well-served by either film.

Moore plays Suzanne Dutchman, first encountered celebrating her 19th wedding anniversary with husband Mark (Dylan McDermott). They’re penthouse-dwelling members of a Manhattan elite, about to suffer a downfall all too familiar to their class. The Feds arm-twist his lawyer associate (James McCafferty) into exposing some high-end financial skullduggery that’s serious enough to get Mark thrown in jail while awaiting trial. Suzanne’s earnest plea that she knew nothing about these doings (though Mark used their mutual accounts as a cover), rings true enough with a judge to limit her to community service for her unknowing complicity.

Thus she finds herself at a center for the blind, volunteering as a reader for crankily incorrigible Bill Oakland (Baldwin). He’s a novelist of moderate renown who lost most of his sight five years ago in a car accident that killed his wife. He still teaches writing in college, which requires another set of eyes to read his students’ stories aloud.

The two get off to a poor start, as he goes out of his way to offend her, recognizing her shyster husband’s last name, while she proves all-too-easily offended. Nonetheless, the program’s administrator (Eden Epstein) isn’t about to let this overdressed socialite abandon court-ordered duties over a personality clash. So the two keep at it, eventually getting past their mutual dislike.

It’s when the grudging pleasure they begin to take in one another’s company turns into something more that “Blind” forsakes its moderate early promise for shaky contrivance. While the lead characters aren’t fully dimensionalized in the script (which is based on a story idea by producer Diane Fisher), the actors attain a certain amiable frisson so long as erudite but semi-insufferable artiste Bill is playfully goading the uptight Suzanne, whom Moore imbues with a refined reserve bordering on resentment. (That Moore’s performance is occasionally a bit stilted, particularly early on, actually works in her character’s favor.) But when Bill commences pitching “Scent of a Woman” woo, and Suzanne eventually succumbs, the dynamic — both in acting and psychological terms — grows much less convincing. The more we’re meant to be swept up in their romantic chemistry, the less it’s evident.

Nor is “Blind” helped by the simultaneous darkening of Mark, who behind bars reveals a sneakiness, jealousy and violence that somehow evaded his wife’s notice until now. McDermott is up to the job, but he’s playing a villain in a near-thriller that occupies little of the runtime. He ends up seeming to exist in a different, fragmentary movie — something considerably more like “The Juror” — awkwardly cobbled onto the main one.

Various supporting characters are more distracting than enriching. These include Epstein, as well as Steven Prescod (as an aspiring writer), Drew Moerlein (as Mark’s own wannabe-protege), Viva Bianca (a predictably backstabbing fellow socialite), and scenarist Mailer as a janitor. The young Mailers surely must have witnessed sufficient Big Apple celebrity, power, talent, striving, ego and excess to make all these character types come alive. Tethered to a central love-story concept that never quite gels, however, none of them quite do.

In the larger scheme of things, Bill is the biggest disappointment: Always a confident, competent screen performer, Baldwin nonetheless can’t elevate the material’s rote movie notion of “serious author” as rude, rascally and able to pull literary quotes from thin air.

While narratively underwhelming, “Blind” is smoothly packaged, its veneer of Manhattan high life amplified by well-chosen locations, Michal Dabal’s attractive widescreen compositions, and a soundtrack filled with lightly jazzy contributions from various musicians.

Film Review: ‘Blind’

Reviewed online, San Francisco, July 13, 2017. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 106 MIN.

Production

A Vertical Entertainment release of a Michael Mailer Films presentation in association with Foresight Unlimited, AMPM Enterprises, Tremendous Entertainment, El Dorado Pictures, Haymarket Annex II and Funding Group of Kingston. Producers: Michael Mailer, Diane Fisher, Pamela Thur, Jennifer Gelfer, Martin Tuchman. Executive producers: Alan Helene, Alessandro Penazzi, Scott Kluge, Alec Baldwin, Mallory Schwartz, Mark Damon, Tamara Birkemoe, Terry Allen, Kramer Khuloud, Kelly Rabadi, David Moscow, Jonathan Gray.

Crew

Director: Michael Mailer. Screenplay: John Buffalo Mailer, from a story by Diane Fisher. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Michal Dabal. Editor: Jim Mol. Music: Dave Eggar, Chuck Palmer, Amy Lee, Sasha Lazard.

With

Alec Baldwin, Demi Moore, Dylan McDermott, Steven Prescod, Viva Bianca, John Buffalo Mailer, Eden Epstein, Drew Moerlein, James McCaffrey.
[“Source-variety”]

Blind Pup Insights: June 29, 2017

Blind Pup Insights: June 29, 2017

Mom is not her disability — she is Mom.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

Say we are on a walk. I hear Mom say, “Look! There’s a bunny on that lawn.”

Heck, I’m a blind pup, but with my super nose on the job, I knew the rabbit was there 29 seconds ago — and two others Mom hadn’t spotted.

Then, a little farther down the road, she speaks up again.

“Must have been a pretty big animal coming out of the field here.”

I already have my nose to the ground where the tall grass has been flattened.

A fox had made itself a trail, my nose tells me. Cool! Too bad I can’t tell Mom, because she doesn’t have a clue.

Mom has the power to discern what I want her to write in my blog, she jumps up in the night if I seem uncomfortable on my bed beside her bed, but she’s got a heck of an olfactory disability.

BURNING COOKIES

It must be tough, in a world full of smells, to be aroma-impaired.

Even before I lost my sight, I delighted in the plethora of fragrances my nose pulled in and analyzed every second of the day.

Mom can smell chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, but I know they are starting to scorch long before — too late — she runs into the kitchen shouting, “The cookies! The cookies!”

VENGEFUL CAT

And even when Mom can detect an odor, it seems too much of it gets her nose confused.

For example, she frequently shoves her shirt at someone else’s nose, asking, “Does this smell like dog?”

She says it like it’s a bad thing; but then again, sometimes people don’t smell all that good to me.

Then there was the cat we had that, so rudely, would retaliate for the smallest slight by peeing somewhere other than her litter box.

I solemnly swear here that I never prompted that revenge by teasing her or stealing her food.

Anyhow, it was absolutely sad to see Mom sniffing frantically to locate the site of the cat’s latest “accident.”

“Here it is,” she’d cry. Then, “Nope. Is it over here?” Then, after finally pressing her face right on the spot: “Eeew! I found it.”

DEAD MOUSE

Once in awhile, Mom’s disability becomes my advantage — like when I detect the irresistible scent of dead mouse deep in the grass in the backyard.

I flop down on it, and while she suspects there may be a disgusting scent there, she doesn’t know for sure, so I get to roll to my heart’s content.

It’s only when we’re back in the house and she bends down close to unhook my leash that l’odeur de rat at last gets translated by the “challenged” receptors in Mom’s nose.

And then she gets out the Clorox Wipes and scrubs away at the fur I just worked so hard to imbue with that delectable mousey smell.

SO BRAVE

It might seem like I feel a bit superior, what with a nose that has roughly 290 million more olfactory receptors than Mom’s does.

But I actually admire her for the way she rises above her disability.

I have never once heard her lament her nasal insufficiency. Mom takes me to my gigs at schools and libraries and talks about how I never stopped wagging my tail through all my surgeries and losing my sight and learning not to smack into doors and walls.

On my behalf, she recites my motto: “I’m not my disability; I’m me,” and never applies it to herself.

She probably doesn’t want me to feel bad, since my physical challenge is so much less severe than hers.

My mom is so brave, living life to the fullest despite all she’s missing.

I hate to say it, but I don’t think her ears work all that well either.

Pepper is the Press-Republican’s ambassador for unwanted animals — she promotes their adoption through the feature Pepper’s Pet Picks in the paper. She is also official mascot of the Plattsburgh Lion’s Club, helping to promote the club’s vision and diabetes education programs. Her other message as she travels around the region is: “When life gets ‘ruff,’ keep wagging your tail.”

To learn more about her Blind Pup Project presentations, email Pepper at [email protected]; call Suzanne Moore, 570-2052; follow Pepper’s tweets, @blindpupproject; or search for BlindPupProject on Facebook.

[“Source-pressrepublican.c”]

Blind adventurer to share insights

A renowned mountaineer and kayaker speaks Monday in Aspen, but this adventure story has a twist.

Erik Weihenmayer has quite the resume. He’s the only blind person to climb Everest, has summited the highest peaks on all seven continents, and most recently, he kayaked the Grand Canyon.

He’s also written several books, and will be speaking in Aspen today about his latest, titled “No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon.”

“I think that our community in particular, the Aspen community will find his story really inspiring and relevant,” said Ellie Scott of Explore Booksellers, which is sponsoring the event.

[“Source-aspenpublicradio”]