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‘The Ticket’: Blind man’s story loses its sense of insight

Dan Stevens with Kerry Bishe in "The Ticket." | SHOUT FACTORY FILMS

There’s something to be said for faith.

In fact, some would say it can move mountains.

But what happens when the mountain does indeed move? How would we embrace the consequences of that seismic shift in the universe? Would we ever truly be the same?

In director Ido Fluk’s “The Ticket,” the mountain moves for one man, and he is never the same, for better or worse. Seems fair to call it a case of “be careful what you wish for.” Or does it? So many questions.

The man in this case is blind, having lost his sight as a child due to a pituitary tumor. His name is James, and he lives in rural New York with his loving but ostensibly plain wife Sam (played by Malin Akerman, whose girl-next-door looks actually are anything but frumpy) and ‘tween son (a captivating Skylar Gaertner). Theirs is an ordinary life.

James (played masterfully by Dan Stevens, he of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Downton Abbey”) goes to his dull, real estate agency telemarketing job each day, dressed in casual clothes, sporting a no-fuss haircut and listening to his co-worker and good friend Bob, also blind (in a finely tuned and understated performance by Oliver Platt), complain about how the young, backstabbing, fast-talking game players are snatching up the promotions and leaving the more seasoned workers behind to wallow in cold-calling hell.

Sam (Malin Akerman) and Bob (Oliver Platt) share a dance in “The Ticket.” | SHOUT FACTORY FILMS
Sam (Malin Akerman) and Bob (Oliver Platt) share a dance in “The Ticket.” | SHOUT FACTORY FILMS

We meet James in a most fascinating way. Fluk and cinematographer Zachary Galler introduce us to him during the film’s opening sequence. We see a blur of gray and black and hazy points of light swirling about the screen, as James and his wife engage in whisper-soft pillow talk. We are literally “seeing” the world through James’ eyes. And we are hearing it through his ears. In fact, aurally, the film lets us hear the subtlest of sounds, from birds calling, to wind blowing, to objects being set down.

Then one day, James awakens and he begins to see colors, and forms, and suddenly, his vision is restored. He is astounded, but it is not an overtly emotional moment. Even when a visibly nervous Sam realizes her husband is seeing her for the first time, she can only mutter, “I’ve got to do something with my hair now that you can see me.” A visit to the doctor offers little scientific explanation for the miracle, except that the pressure of the tumor has subsided.

From here, the film moves in confounding ways. There is no great pendulum swing; James can see, but there is no great catharsis. At least externally. He sees himself in the mirror as an adult for the first time and sweeps his hair into a different style; hair product soon follows. He heads to a fitness club to run on a treadmill. The clothes his wife has dressed him in are blue-collar; he realizes if he wants to get ahead, he has to dress the part. And he is drawn to one of the office agents, the sexy and seemingly unattainable Jessica (played to perfection by Northwestern grad Kerry Bishe), whose perfume he has blindly adored and who is now truly a vision to behold. Soon James learns to play the game, and the film moves in not so surprising ways. He gets a promotion. He becomes a fast-talking jerk. He begins an affair with Jessica. Poor blind Bob and devoted wife Sam are left in the miracle dust.

This is a film that moves quietly along but speaks volumes. Most of the scenes are dimly lit. Words not said are almost more potent than any of the dialogue. James finally has the wonderful life he has prayed for day after day, and yet he walks away from it as fast as he can. So what was he really praying for?

The film’s title comes from an old joke (which James adapts for his sleazy sales seminar pitches) about a guy who prays every night to win the lottery. The punchline (spoiler!) is that God would let him win, if only the man would buy a darn ticket! The religious undertones throughout the film are not exactly subtle: James wins the life lottery but loses his soul. After 97 minutes, does it really come down to that?

★★1⁄2

Shout! Factory Films presents a film directed by Ido Fluk and written by Fluk and Sharon Mashihi. Running time: 97 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at AMC South Barrington and on demand.