At First Sight

on January 15, 1999 by Melissa Morrison
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Let the puns begin: "Cover your eyes when you see this one!" Or, "If only the title referred to the sight on a deer rifle." Val Kilmer ("The Prince of Egypt") plays Virgil, a blind masseur, the way some people talk to sightless people--very slowly, as if their handicap somehow made them a little thick-headed, too. He falls in love with Amy ("Mimic's" Mira Sorvino), a fast-track Manhattan architect who convinces him to have an operation that will restore his sight. Sorvino's flat, perky delivery makes endearments sound like she's addressing her Uncle Ed. Virgil's struggles to adapt to the visual world cause domestic strain, so much of the film chronicles the couple's bickering. As a romance, "At First Sight" goes straight from "first kiss" to "who gets the stereo?" without much fun stuff in between.
As a medical drama, the film fumbles material by Oliver Sacks, the writer-doctor on whose chronicles of unusual true-life cases, such as the one this story was based, make for rich metaphors about human relationships and perception. ("Awakenings" is another film based on his work.) Steve Levitt's screenplay hammers the point, though, with lines like, "Even though he doesn't look at me, I feel like he really knows who I am." Kelly McGillis ("The Accused") plays Virgil's overprotective sister, who would rather he stay in the Dark Ages; the wonderful Bruce Davison ("The Crucible") doesn't have much to do but speak soothingly as an eye surgeon; and Nathan Lane ("The Birdcage") makes a brief appearance in what should now be known as the Robin Williams Role as an unconventional therapist. Their cumulative talent doesn't add much, though, to a movie that itself contributes nothing but yet another cheerfully disabled person ("I'm all ears!" Virgil says) who shows us sighted specimens just how blind we really are. Starring Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino and Kelly McGillis. Directed by Irwin Winkler. Written by Steve Levitt. Produced by Irwin Winkler and Rob Cowan. An MGM release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for scenes involving sexuality and nudity, and brief strong language. Running time: 124 min
Tags: Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Kelly McGillis, Irwin Winkler, Steve Levitt. Produced by Irwin Winkler and Rob Cowan. An MGM release. Drama
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