Monday, November 23, 2009

Movie Review: The Blind Side

The Blind Side ***
Directed By:
John Lee Hancock.
Written By: John Lee Hancock based on the book by Michael Lewis.
Starring: Sandra Bullock (Leigh Anne Touhy), Tim McGraw (Sean Tuohy), Quinton Aaron (Michael Oher), Jae Head (S.J. Tuohy), Lily Collins (Collins Tuohy), Ray McKinnon (Coach Cotton), Kim Dickens (Mrs. Boswell), Adriane Lenox (Denise Oher), Kathy Bates (Miss Sue).

I have no idea how true to reality The Blind Side is the story of Michael Oher, who went from being pretty much homeless in high school to be a first round pick of the Baltimore Ravens last year and becoming an instant millionaire. And to be honest, I don’t much care. Movies have to work unto themselves, and shouldn’t take too much effort to be true. And The Blind Side works remarkably well as a movie. It is an inspiring sports movie without being so sickly sweet that it rots your teeth.

Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) lives in Memphis, but he doesn’t really have a home. His mother is crack head, and he has been in and out of foster care for most of his life. When the movie opens, he is staying with a friend, but that doesn’t last long. He gets into a private Christian school, but just sits there in class and doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t say much of anything to anyone really. One day, Leigh Ann Touhy (Sandra Bullock) and her family are driving home when they come across Michael. He is cold and alone, so she invites him to stay at their place for the night. They night turns into two, and then more, and soon they come to see Michael as part of their family.

Michael is a gentle giant of a man. At around 6’4 and well over 200 pounds, he is huge, which makes people think he will good at football. He brings his grades up enough to qualify for the sport, but when he gets on the field, he doesn’t like to hit people. But his protective instincts are phenomenal. In the movie, all it takes to turn Michael from a marshmallow into a star Left Tackle is for Leigh Ann to tell him to think of the football as his family, with the quarterback being her. He is to protect him from any harm, just like he would protect her.

In many ways, The Blind Side is a classic sports movie story, about the underdog made good. It takes a kid with no real advantages in life, and turns him into a star athlete overnight. All he needed was for someone to believe in him. The movie has come under fire in some circles, because it is yet another story of a poor black kid who plays a supporting role in his own story, while the white star of the movie – in this case Sandra Bullock – is given the lead. And while to a certain extent this is true, I can’t help but think that in this case at least, this was the right choice.

Oher, the character not necessarily the person, is in a lot of ways an enigma throughout much of the movie. He is quiet in the extreme, barely mumbling a few words together for pretty much the first two thirds of the movie. He lets his action speak louder than his words ever could, in scenes like when he protects the Touhy’s youngest son when they get into a traffic accident, or on Thanksgiving when the entire Touhy family goes to eat dinner in front of not one but two TVs showing a football game, and he quietly goes into the dining room by himself at first – until Leigh Ann drags the rest of the family in there with him. By focusing on the brash, outspoken Leigh Ann for much of the movie, writer/director John Lee Hancock finds a way to tell Oher’s story in a way that will not alienate audiences. In doing so, he gives Bullock what just may be the role of her career so far.

Bullock so often disguises her talent in the lackluster romantic comedies she makes. That she is better at these movies than pretty much any other actress in the world right now is really beside the point. In The Blind Side, she doesn’t play a character that far removed from those romantic comedy roles. She is good looking, charming, driven, sassy and fun. No matter what movie she is in, you know she will almost always get her way. Here, her talents are put to good use, as she plays *gasp* a Republican and Christian woman, not to mention a member of the NRA, and isn’t painted as a heartless villain, but rather a good woman who takes Michael in, because it is the right thing to do. We like her pretty much immediately. Michael needs someone like Leigh Ann to bring him out of his shell, and that she does. Quinton Aaron is quite good as Michael, making him lovable and sweet, without pouring it on too heavy, and making us feel the sickly sweetness of the story too much.

The supporting cast is a mixed bag. Tim McGraw is fine as Bullock’s supportive husband, who seems to have learned from all their years together not to fight her, but to just smile and roll with the punches. She’s going to get her way anyway, so why fight it? The other Tuohy kids, Collins, played by Lily Collins and SJ, played by Jae Head, are underwritten, and in the case of SJ, seems rather cartoonish. Kathy Bates as the tutor Miss Sue, that the Tuohy’s hire to help Michael get his grades up, is really not given anything to do.

The Blind Side is what it is – an inspiring sports movies – with all the good and bad clich├ęs that go along with that. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but then again it doesn’t have to. It does what it does well, and the result is a highly enjoyable little movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment