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At First Sight

Released: 1999

Genre: Romance

Runtime: 2 hr 8 min

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Irwin Winkler

Starring: Mira Sorvino, Val Kilmer, Kelly McGillis, Steven Weber

A film based on the essay To See and Not to See in neurologist Oliver Sacks' book An Anthropologist on Mars.

The movie slowly falls apart in front of your eyes.

Review by: SteveRhodes

Added: 7 years ago

A couple of massages and Amy Benic's life is changed forever.

Amy, played with a sweet, nervous energy by Mira Sorvino, is a hard driving young architect who works with her ex-husband (Steven Weber) at the firm they co-founded. As director Irwin Winkler's AT FIRST SIGHT begins, Amy checks into a spa for "a quick fix" of daily massages - but not too early in the morning. After a couple of those "deep tissue" babies delivered under the tender care of a handsome masseur named Virgil, she is head over heels in love with him.

The first scene of them together has her crying during her quasi-orgasmic massage. "Do you always make girls cry?" she weeps. "Always," he replies earnestly. The script is by a series of writers (Steve Levitt, Irwin Winkler and Rob Cowan) so one cannot be sure to whom to attribute which lines, but, since all the lines are consistently sappy, perhaps it doesn't matter.

Val Kilmer, who is only slightly better than in his atrocious performances in THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU and THE SAINT, plays Virgil for maximum schmaltz. Virgil's blind, but, as is de rigueur in such cinematic situations, Amy will not realize this for a while, and, when she does, she will be suitably embarrassed and apologize profusely.

The romance between the two of them advances rapidly. "She smells like cinnamon and nutmeg," is how Virgil describes Amy to his dog. He is overhead by his long-suffering sister (Kelly McGillis), who takes care of Virgil. She is apprehensive about any possible changes in Virgil's life.

The acting by the two leads has a certain symmetry. Amy displays genuine affection for Virgil and makes him the center of her life. Virgil agrees -- he loves himself and sees the world in terms of his needs. Sorvino is as honestly open and giving in her performance as Kilmer is self-absorbed.

Soon the two of them have moved from his place near the spa to her pad in New York after she convinces him to try a miracle cure to restore his sight. (The film is "inspired by a true story.") The doctor, played by Bruce Davison, does give Virgil his sight, which causes Virgil great consternation. Dr. Phil Webster, a vision therapist, played by comedian Nathan Lane, helps Virgil deal with the emotional trauma of his new sight. Dr. Webster takes Virgil to a cheap stripper bar where they can polish off a few beers while the good doctor asks him what he thinks about the naked visuals.

The movie, which is largely a series of missed opportunities, finds the ugliest part of one of the prettiest cities around, New York City, for Virgil to waste his newfound eyesight on.

It was probably inevitable that a movie with this title would have some "sight" gags, but do they have to have so many? When Virgil meets Amy after her massage, he says he doesn't recognize her with her clothes on. And when she changes clothes when he is still blind, he promises not to look. Ad nauseam.

The movie is cluttered with characters and subplots which add little other than time to the picture. A subplot concerning Virgil's evil father could be totally eliminated, as could the one of Amy's ex-husband.

As likeable as the female lead is and as fascinating as the subject matter is, the movie slowly falls apart in front of your eyes. When Virgil runs out into a busy Manhattan street one evening and plays chicken with a speeding taxi just to observe the visual effects of rapidly approaching headlights, you know the movie has finally and completely lost it.

AT FIRST SIGHT runs too long at 2:08. It is rated PG-13 for sexual situations and a little profanity and would be fine for teenagers.