Film Review: ‘The Ticket’ Starring Dan Stevens

The Ticket manages to take a familiar premise and make it work.

James (Dan Stevens) lost his sight when he was still a teenager due to a pituitary tumor. Despite this, he’s made a good life for himself: he lives with his wife, Sam (Malin Akerman) and his son, Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), and holds down a job working the phones for a real estate company. One morning, he wakes up and can see. The doctors say his tumor shrunk overnight. But what seems like a blessing, of course, turns out to be a curse.

While everything goes well at first, James becomes more and more obsessed with the material and the superficial, caring more about his outward appearance and having the snazziest clothes, the flashiest car, the most beautiful woman, and the highest paying job than he does about the more meaningful things in life, alienating his family and friends in the process and ultimately losing everything.

If this premise doesn’t sound particularly original or exciting, well… That’s because it’s not. If you just read a plot description of The Ticket, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking the film bereft of originality.

And with a premise so familiar, The Ticket could have been a tedious, boring, didactic slog. And at times it threatens to be: languid takes meant to convey great depth and evoke great emotions sometimes cross the line into pretentiousness (the opening and closing shots come across as sort of imitation The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). But, sometimes in spite of itself, the film works due to strong moment-to-moment writing and wonderful performances from the cast. Throw in some good camerawork and you’ve got a good, if not great, film.

Dan Stevens (who I’m still not used to with an American accent) gives a nuanced, subtle performance, always finding the right balance of nice guy and selfish prick in a role that could very easily have veered into caricature and indication. Similarly, Malin Akerman manages to find the right layers to expose in every scene as a woman striving to retain the sense of love and normalcy that is so quickly collapsing around her and her son until she chooses not to take it anymore. And, as always, Oliver Platt, as James’ friend Bob (who is, as James used to be, blind) is a treat to watch as he comes to terms with and finally confronts James about what he’s become (in the most wonderfully understated way possible). A special shout-out goes to Kerry Bishé, who plays James’s co-worker/lover. It’s a somewhat thankless role that she attacks admirably, rounding it out to three dimensions instead of a mere plot point.

It helps that much of the writing is strong, giving the cast a lot to chew on. The characters are all well-rounded, and scenes have a satisfying ebb and flow. The requisite story beats you expect to see still manage to be heart-wrenching, even if their shadows darken your doorstep from a mile away. Even though you know James is going to go down Heel Turn Blvd., watching it play out is heart-wrenching for all involved.

At its core, The Ticket is a morality play, its message sewn tightly on its sleeve (the IMDb logline lays it out for you: “A blind man who regains his vision finds himself becoming metaphorically blinded by his obsession for the superficial”). With such obvious and predictable themes at play, don’t go into the movie expecting to come out the other side somehow changed or with a greater depth of understanding of the human condition (although the film’s timbre seems to hint at more depth and importance than is actually there). Curiously enough, for a film that seemingly seeks to challenge its audience with the metaphysics of human desire, The Ticket is a little too digestible. I won’t go so far to say as it’s forgettable (it’s too well made for that), but I can’t say I’ll still be thinking about it in six months.

Still, I enjoyed the film for what it was. While I knew where the journey would take me, it was a journey worth going on for the strength of the performances and the writing.

OPENS APRIL 7TH IN NEW YORK AT THE CINEMA VILLAGE
*Also Available On-Demand Everywhere April 7th 2017*

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