It must have been a lack of artistic perception rather than any physical impairment that induced Alec Baldwin, Demi Moore and Dylan McDermott to take lead roles in this sappy melodrama, the sort of thing that gives so-called “women’s pictures” a bad name. Were it not for their presence, the ludicrous story of a romantic triangle involving a heartless money manager, his clueless wife, and a blind novelist would have been hard pressed to get a slot on the Lifetime Network. As it is, it’s getting a limited theatrical release before its inevitable descent to the streaming services. It won’t take long.
Baldwin stars as Bill Oakland, an irascible author who penned one supposedly great novel before being blinded in an auto accident in which his wife was killed. Now he survives by teaching writing to undergraduates, which means that he has to have his students’ work read to him at a clinic that makes an office available to the grouchy fellow. The task is ordinarily part of the community service required of folks by the courts.
The latest person assigned to him is Suzanne Dutchman (Moore), the wife of Mark (McDermott), one of those “master of the universe” types who has made a mint through securities fraud and stock manipulation but has now been arrested for his many misdeeds. A kindly judge accepts her protestations of non-complicity in his schemes and merely assigns her a hundred hours of community service, while he languishes in jail—apparently unable to raise bail.
So Suzanne winds up reading prose to Bill—including, at one point, “Anna Karenina,” which allows for some extremely clumsy comparison of Tolstoy’s masterwork to the story at hand. Initially they are hostile, with Oakland’s barbs especially cutting, but gradually they warm to one another, and before you know (or believe) it, they’re having an affair—which doesn’t please the insanely jealous (or merely possessive) Mark at all. Will she eventually leave the lap of luxury for love?
That’s one of the “big” questions posed by the movie. The other is whether Bill will rouse himself from his self-pity and take up the pen again to finish his second book. His new-found love will have an impact on that, of course, but so will the intervention of a kid named Gavin (Stephen Presco), who idolizes Oakland and, after a rocky start, is virtually adopted by him as a protégé.
Nothing that happens in “Blind” has the slightest hint of authenticity, and Baldwin, Moore and McDermott seem to recognize that, reciting the alternately banal and overblown dialogue with the sort of thespian desperation appropriate to really bad writing. The supporting cast is equally hard-pressed to invest their cardboard characters with a dose of reality, but some of them try much too hard to make an impression, the worst offender certainly being Drew Moerlein, as Mark’s newly-minted aide. The picture is technically mediocre, with bland cinematography by Michal Dabal, and the score is one of those dreadful pieces that labor under the mistaken notion that a solo xylophone is a good musical idea.
It remains to note that “Blind” is a family affair—screenwriter John Buffalo Mailer is the half-brother of producer-director Michael Mailer (a long-time producer taking his first—and ill-advised—crack at directing); John also takes a small role in the picture as clinic employee Jimmy, as does Michael’s brother Stephen, who plays a lawyer. (All are sons of novelist Norman Mailer.) It just goes to prove that talent is rarely an inherited trait. Michael’s wife, singer Sasha Lazard, also appears in the movie, and collaborated with Dave Eggar on the awful score. It’s nice to think of them all working harmoniously together, but a pity they didn’t keep the outcome of their joint efforts in the family.