A timeless story is normally a timeless story for a reason. It doesn’t survive multiple incarnations by accident. In the case of “The Ticket,” this independent drama manages to take a fairly timeless premise and does far too little with it. There’s a strong visual style on display and some solid acting within, but you can’t help wishing that there was more to the premise. It’s more setup than payoff, and neither the journey nor the destination wind up particularly satisfying. This is very much a missed opportunity for all involved.
“The Ticket” has many moments where it seems poised to break out, but then a cliche will rear its ugly head. The film loves the metaphor about materialism that it’s pitching, but can’t find a way to deliver the goods in a fully satisfying way. There’s a wonderfully effective movie buried in here somewhere, but it never burrows out into the light.
We begin by meeting James (Dan Stevens), a blind man living a fairly uncomplicated yet happy life. He has a loving wife in Sam (Malin Ackerman) and son in Jonah (Skylar Gaertner). He has a telemarketing job that he works at along with best friend Bob (Oliver Platt). It’s simple, but it works for him. When he prays at night, he proclaims his happiness. Then, without warning, one morning he wakes up and he can see. It’s a literal miracle.
Now with the gift of vision, James initially is thrilled with this added bonus in his life. Sam is self-conscious about her looks, but happy for her husband. Then, issues start to arise. James quickly becomes obsessed with the superficial and with “bettering” himself. He sets his sights on a promotion at work and eventually on bedding his boss, Jessica (Kerry Bishé). Blinded by these surface level urges, is he any better off than he was as a sightless man? The answer is clear, though the movie doesn’t skimp on hammering the point home in the third act.
Stevens is really having a big 2017 so far, though “The Ticket” is clearly the lowest profile of his work this year. “Beauty and the Beast” is the blockbuster, while “Legion” is leaving his mark on the small screen. This is just a character study with a character that’s not worth studying. Stevens tries his best, really leaning into James’ worst qualities, but the deck is stacked against him. The same goes for Ackerman and Platt. Both are underutilized, though they make the most of the opportunities they do receive. Kerry Bishé does the same, only to a lesser extent. They all rise above what’s written on the page, to one degree or another.
Stevens is the lead, but Ackerman and Platt end up playing the more interesting characters. Where their stories go is far more believable and realistic. Bishé is window dressing, but her underrated screen presence is still in effect. Things like “Nice Guy Johnny” and “Red State” are better showcases, but you can see it here as well. In addition to Skylar Gaertner, the supporting players include Liza J. Bennett, Peter Mark Kendall, and more, but none of them leave a mark.
Co-writer/director Ido Fluk never finds a compelling way to bring this morality tale to life. The direction is strong, with fascinating visuals and a solid handle on the cast, but the script comes up short. Fluk and co-writer Sharon Mashihi begin too subtle and end too on the nose. The hammer approach just doesn’t work for the climax of “The Ticket.” Again, credit to Fluk and cinematographer Zack Galler for giving this a unique look. At times, they evocatively show what being blind might be like. There’s also a judiciously utilized score from composers Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. It all comes down to the screenplay, and that’s where “The Ticket” fails.
The biggest problem here is that in focusing on the superficial, we wind up following an initially compelling character as he becomes a jerk. Some cinematic jerks are fantastic. “American Pyscho” only works because Patrick Bateman is a dick. However, here we were attached to James’ humanity. Then, the change is never effectively portrayed. As such, instead of feeling sympathy for the situation, it just becomes annoying that the film has become a bit of a bore.
In the end, “The Ticket” teases us with promise but delivers far too little. It’s the equivalent of being told that your lottery ticket is a winner but then finding out the value is a dollar. Sure, it did what it set out to do, but in the least satisfying way possible. Fans of Stevens will likely be curious about “The Ticket,” but expectations should be kept in check.
“The Ticker” is distributed by Shout! Factory and opens in theaters on April 7.