If you’re a fan of Dan Stevens from his tenure on the period drama series, Downton Abbey, not to mention (but you can see I am about to) his current roles in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the hit TV series Legion, you can get another fix of the wildly popular British actor in a new independent film, The Ticket. As the first American film directed by Ido Fluk (Never Too Late), The Ticket offers an intimate, engaging and well-acted take on a familiar cautionary tale. James (Stevens) has been blind since childhood due to an inoperable pituitary tumor pressing on his optic nerve. Despite his blindness, he appears to enjoy a good life; being happily married to Sam (Malin Ackerman) and father to a 13 year-old son, Jonah (Skylar Gaertner). James also works at a Real Estate firm making cold sales calls with a group of other blind employees that includes his close friend, Bob (Oliver Platt). There’s no reason to think that James‘ life isn’t as fulfilling and productive as a sighted person, until his circumstances change drastically.
James‘ eyesight suddenly returns shortly after the film’s opening credits sequence, which plays out over a playful morning conversation with Sam as they lay in bed. Set against a dark screen that is occasionally punctuated by a brief mix of faded shadows and light, this montage is highly effective in putting the viewer inside James‘ world as a blind man. But by the time that James makes his way into the bathroom for his morning shower, he sees his adult reflection in the mirror for the first time. At this point, the plot of The Ticket might be described as Awakenings meets 99 Homes, as James becomes almost frantically driven to make up for opportunities lost due to his blindness, and get what he feels he deserves as a sighted man.
With his vision restored, James is no longer content to work the phones in the office, and makes a pitch to the firm’s executives to launch an ambitious but ethically dubious marketing campaign which Bob immediately sees as a scam. He also becomes increasing preoccupied with his appearance; preening over his hair and investing in tailored suits to fit in better with the professional group of his co-workers that he aspires to join. As he butts heads with Sam over his desire to branch out into new activities — she prefers to stay in their comfortable routine (going dancing at a social center frequented by blind people, which is where the two first met) — he also develops a wandering eye.
Actress Kerry Bishe (the best thing about AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire) is terrific as Jessica, James’ previously unattainable co-worker with whom he pursues an impulsive affair. By the time Sam tells James that if he leaves her, he can’t come back, he is too ‘blinded” by his own misguided ambition to stop the progress of a swiftly moving downward spiral of his own creation.
Because his sight returns so early in the film, we don’t get to experience much of James‘ character (or lack thereof) while he is actually blind, so a degree of imaginative extrapolation is necessary to surmise whether or not James was always a self-centered dick, or if his growth curve towards dick-ishness was just extremely steep. It’s hard not to empathize with his situation, but his careless selfishness doesn’t make him the most sympathetic protagonist. A fuller backstory showing James living his life and interacting with his loved ones while blind would have been helpful in clarifying the story’s point of view.
The title, The Ticket, refers to a story that James repeats like a mantra during the film, whose message boils down to how living life without taking action is like hoping to win the lottery without ever buying a ticket: you have to be “in it to win it.” Ultimately, The Ticket is a good — not great — low-key drama that effectively creates emotionally honest interpersonal scenarios, but once the ending that can be seen coming from a mile away finally hits, you may feel like the writer should have spent a bit more time on the script. That said, it’s definitely recommended for fans of Dan Stevens, or any of the actors involved.
The Worley Gig Gives The Ticket 3 1/2 out of 5 Stars!
The Ticket Opens on April 7th, 2017 and will be playing in New York City at the Cinema Village on Second Avenue and 12th Street. The Ticket will also available On-Demand everywhere on that date. The Ticket in Unrated but OK for teenagers (kids will be bored) and has a runtime of 97 minutes.