I've been a nurse for 20 years, and have been around many patients who must contend daily with what "normal" people would consider to be adversities and handicaps. I've always looked upon them with (1) great admiration for their personal strength and determination, and (2) a pervading sense of sorrow and an aching heart, for their "misfortune" in having been denied the opportunity to interact in the world with the benefit of an intact, healthy body.
This movie really struck an emotional chord with me, and made me realize how my feelings for these `unfortunates' could be construed as condescending and insensitive. I've often wished that I had the power to "heal" the handicapped, or to make them whole and "normal." The idea that they could feel totally satisfied, complete, and happy, despite their limitations -- and that it is presumptuous of us to think otherwise -- was intelligently brought to light in this screenplay.
This film is based upon a true story of a man who had come to terms with his blindness, and who, instead of wallowing in bitterness and self-pity, had learned to use his remaining senses of hearing, touch, smell, and taste -- along with a delightful sense of humor -- to become a happy, positive, and resourceful human being, with a keen sensitivity toward -- and appreciation of -- the world and the people around him. This is very much like handicapped patients I have cared for through the years, who left me in wonder at their strikingly positive attitudes and warmth toward humanity, despite the obstacles they face on a daily basis.
One of the reasons that I enjoy Val Kilmer's performances so much, is that he has the uncanny ability to capture the subtlest nuances of the characters he is portraying, whether it's Virgil, Doc Holliday, Jim Morrison, etc., and then is willing to bare his soul to bring the role to fruition for public enjoyment/critique. It's a risky, daring, thing to do -- and I applaud him for his courage! I appreciate the effort he makes to hone his performances by extensively researching the people and situations he is contracted to portray, instead of just showing up on the set, spewing his lines, picking up the paycheck, and moving on. His portrayal of a blind man was COMPLETELY believable, and I forgot for two hours that he was a sighted actor playing a part. One reviewer criticized him for smiling too much when his character interacted with people. I have to ask whether that person has ever watched Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles or Jose Feliciano, while they are interacting in social situations. Kilmer nailed this part, and beautifully expressed the gamut of emotions experienced by Virgil in the transformations that took place in his life.
Other issues that have been mentioned by reviewers: (1) -- A supposed `lack of chemistry' between Kilmer and Sorvino I have to wonder if we were watching the same film! (2) -- Yes -- as a warning to households with young children -- there is nudity, but their intimate scenes were enacted beautifully, with sensitivity and tenderness; there was nothing raunchy or sensationalistic about them. However, some might take offense at the scene in the strip club it wasn't essential to the plot development, and could have been omitted. (3) -- The only `bad language' in the film were rare, scattered expletives, which conveyed the understandable frustration of the main character when he was confronted with overwhelming emotions and tribulations, and (4) the scene of confrontation between Virgil and his father, which some people thought unnecessary, but which I felt was very appropriate, since their relationship and the father's abandonment of the family had been such traumatic, devastating events in Virgil's life.
This film is an emotional roller-coaster ride, but WELL worth the trip LOVED it! :o)
P.S. If you haven't seen Kilmer as Doc Holliday in `Tombstone,' RUN, don't walk, to your nearest video store, and grab the Vista Series DVD it's absolutely one of the best performances EVER recorded on film! The Academy must have slept through 1993!!!!
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