If only a few minutes of "At First Sight" rang true.
Although based on a true story, this tale of a blind massage therapist whose busybody new girlfriend convinces him to undergo a risky operation to restore his sight comes across as phony as anything Washington has to offer these days.
Leads Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino exhibit hardly any chemistry (though they do share the bond of being inordinately attractive people), the script never opts for a single tug at your heartstrings when a dozen will do, and the supporting players (including Nathan Lane, Kelly McGillis and Bruce Davison) are so one-dimensional as to be practically invisible.
Sorvino, who desperately needs to find a role worthy of her, is Amy, an uptight New York architect who gets away from it all by taking a vacation at an upstate resort. There she meets Virgil (Kilmer) and is immediately attracted to him.
Why? Because he puts her at ease.
Heck, if love were that simple, every massage therapist in the world would get a dozen marriage proposals a day.
Virgil's only imperfection, in Amy's view -- and make no mistake, he is one noble creature -- is that he's blind. Which doesn't bother him, but Amy resolves to do something about it anyway. Thus he has the operation, which gives him his sight but drives a wedge between the once-blissful couple.
For while Virgil can see, he has no idea what he's seeing.
He has no depth perception, can't distinguish real from fake and has a devil of a time with glass doors.
This makes him frustrated, which makes Amy frustrated, which leads her to go back to her jerk of a boyfriend, which makes her realize maybe Virgil isn't so bad after all, et cetera, et cetera.
"At First Sight" does best when it sticks with the consequences of learning to see as an adult; it's a fascinating medical story. But that darn love story keeps getting in the way -- a love story way too contrived to merit anything beyond that first glance.
'At First Sight'
Starring Mira Sorvino and Val Kilmer
Directed by Irwin Winkler
Released by MGM
Rated PG-13 (language, sexuality)
Running time: 124 minutes
Sun score: *1/2
Pub Date: 1/15/99