1.5 stars (out of 4)
Well ... maybe you can’t have it all.
Eleven years after her promising movie debut in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Lively is still in search of that breakout big-screen role. (No, her turn as a blue-collar hussy in The Town does not count.) She takes an alarming step backwards in her latest effort, All I See Is You. A heavy-handed and painfully dull drama, it will be a difficult sell to even her most hard-core fans.
Few of them were on hand during the film's first press and industry screening at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday, September 10, as dozens of moviegoers walked out of the theater long before the closing credits. The indie, which is looking for distribution ahead of a potential 2017 release, will have its official red carpet premiere Wednesday, September 14.
Lively plays Gina, a woman who was blinded as a child as a result of a car accident. (Her parents died in the crash.) She’s made a good life for herself thanks to her marriage to James (Everest’s Jason Clarke). As her de facto eyes, he literally leads her in the right direction around their home in Bangkok. She depends on him, which is exactly how he prefers it. And though they have trouble conceiving a child, the love is passionate. We know this because the movie opens on one of those pretentious slo-mo art-house sex scenes.
Their dynamic changes after Gina undergoes a successful corneal transplant on one of her eyes. Suddenly, all the blurriness comes into focus. “The sky is blue!” she exclaims. (No, really, she says that.) And that’s just the ride home. Without her literal crutch, she can walk freely on her own with her new dog. Without her metaphorical crutch, she becomes more self-sufficient. Now she and her wild sister can finally explore Thailand’s sex clubs.
Gina also gazes in the mirror for the first time and realizes she looks like Blake Lively. Goodbye, dowdy clothes; hello blonde hair dye and cleavage. James doesn’t like it one bit. In bed, Gina blindfolds her husband and wants him to be the submissive one, much to his dismay. As Gina takes in her new view, she begins to see that her idyllic marriage is anything but!
Clearly this pic isn’t an Oscar contender. It did have potential for amusing camp and/or heart-tugging melodrama, though. Alas, director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) opts for the earnest approach, excruciatingly piling on the self-serious moments. In fact, this isn’t a film so much as it is a series of dreamy images floating on a screen. That too-stylish direction extends to the dialogue too: Too often, the couple speak in whispers when a simple conversation would suffice, and old-fashioned yelling would be more appropriate.
Lively languishes here. Her natural radiance is sorely missing and, frankly, she doesn’t have the dramatic chops to pull off the required emotional transformation. It’s a toss-up as to whether she and Clarke share a tepid chemistry because of the nature of their roles or because they’re miserable in the roles. Gina is better off without him — while the actress is better off working on other kinds of projects. Here’s hoping she sees the light soon.
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