It’s a cruel irony that Blind, like so many films about ostensibly great writers, is so unimaginatively written. Bill Oakland (Alec Baldwin) is a successful novelist who hasn’t written anything in the years since a car accident made him a widower and left him without his sight. He’s newly inspired upon meeting Suzanne Dutchman (Demi Moore), a socialite sentenced to 100 hours of community service at a center for the blind cum lonely hearts club in New York City after her husband, Mark (Dylan McDermott), is indicted for insider trading. Bill and Suzanne clash at first, as he harshly judges her for benefiting from Mark’s swindling, and she indignantly tells him off as a result. But Bill hasn’t dated in five years and Mark is a neglectful prick, so Bill and Suzanne’s contempt for one another inevitably blooms into romance.
At one point, the film makes a bold but foolish move by getting in the ring with Tolstoy, analogizing itself to Anna Karenina in a self-seriously laughable attempt to pass its schmaltzy and contrived romance narrative off for something significantly grander. During one of their first get-togethers, Suzanne monotonously reads Anna Karenina so Bill can teach it to the undergrads whose fiction he’s prone to roast. His criticism of her delivery becomes a speech about the “most important moment in the book” and, by extension, a condescending announcement to the audience of the film’s capital-B big theme. Suzanne is to Anna as Mark is to Karenin, and while Bill never explicitly likens himself to Vronsky, he does subtly encourage Suzanne to continue their fling when she acknowledges its impropriety.
That analogy fits, but the schlocky presentation of Bill and Suzanne’s relationship robs the film of the heft it so desperately aspires to. Their rapport turns from prickly to rosy with little narrative prompting. About halfway through the film, she intentionally arrives earlier to one of their designated meetings at the care center, and they’re delighted to encounter each other when he walks in. The maudlin music leading into the scene, and the film’s transition to a warmer color palette, better conveys their sudden affection for each other than anything in the actual narrative. A later scene of Suzanne and Bill talking dirty while she shaves him with a straight razor feels hokey and unearned, as does their consummation, during which Suzanne blindfolds herself before kissing Bill so she can “see” like he does.
Director Michael Mailer and screenwriter John Buffalo Mailer, sons of Norman Mailer, paint this romance in the broadest strokes possible, allowing their actors little room for nuance. Baldwin stares askew to convey Bill’s blindness, and clips his syllables with breathy professorial affect; McDermott barks and sleazes his way through a stock businessman villain; and Moore, whose character is defined largely by her relationship to the men in her life (she does, though, have a fondness for yoga), slightly adjusts her vocal inflections and facial expressions to perfunctorily demonstrate yearning and frustration. They’re all helpless against the script’s pretense to grandeur. In their inevitable confrontation over her infidelity, Mark tells Suzanne, “Bill’s a short story. I’m your novel.” It should be a tense interaction. Instead, it hilariously reveals that Mark’s understanding of literature is the same as that of the film: as nothing more than a vehicle for pithy, weightless romantic sentiments.