I am loving The Blind Side. I’m not exactly sure why, but I really like this movie. Yes, it’s a cheese fest and filled with melodramatic sentimentality, but it’s really good. I understand why Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for her performance of a domineering suburban wife; she plays the material incredibly and is completely compelling. Normally I don’t get dragged into syrupy Hollywood, feel-good dribble but this film does it right.
Quinton Aaron plays Big Mike (Michael Oher), future Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman and destitute teenager from the projects, living on the streets and wherever he can lay his head. Ending up at an upper-class Christian private school (Wingate in Memphis, Tennessee) because of his size and athletic potential, the staff soon learns Michael isn’t a big, dull young man but one not afforded an education and coming from a broken home – his mother is addicted to crack and his father left within a week of his birth. In comes Leigh Anne Tuhoy (Bullock), who recognizes Michael’s grim situation and bring him home, eventually bringing him into the family and adopting him. Michael begins playing football and after a few false, lukewarm starts he becomes a phenomenal player, bringing Wingate into another sphere and attracting the attention of almost every large football college in the nation.
When I first saw the preview for The Blind Side in theaters I couldn’t help but think one phrase. I’m reluctant to share it because it could come across as potentially racist but that’s not my intention. Sufficient to say, I felt Bullock’s treatment of Michael in the previews was akin to one’s relationship to a pet they find on the roadside – loved primarily as an object of pity. I still feel that way somewhat after watching the film but director and writer John Lee Hancock does a great job with an overtly sentimental story, heavy on schmaltz and melodrama. However, Bullock plays her part magnificently, taking what could’ve been a trite, mediocre role and turning it into cinematic gold. Between Hancock’s clever filmmaking and Bullock’s dynamic presence on the screen, the film is at the pinnacle of these kinds of popcorn movies.
The film is obviously geared towards a white audience, claiming white Christians are the answer to inner city problems. Michael’s mother, addicted to crack and promiscuous (having around a dozen children with multiple partners), isn’t depicted as totally devoid of feeling or regret, but it does present the situation as salvageable by upper-class white charity. In essence, I felt the story was an expression of white guilt but still treated black Americans as secondary, reliant on the charity of Caucasian Christians for any socioeconomic advancement. Maybe I’m delving too deeply into a popcorn film, looking for meaning where it’s potentially absent, yet this touching, heartwarming story has this issue at its core; it inadvertently explores race relations in America and shows very few financially solvent black Americans who haven’t received support from wealthy white Americans. However, as I said before, the story is compelling and I’m willing to overlook this because the film is so compelling and Bullock plays her part with great aplomb.
One of my favorite moments in The Blind Side involves Michael brief exploration of action hero tropes. Towards the end of the film Michael visits his old, dilapidated neighborhood looking for his mother and ends up hanging out with her neighbor – a neighborhood crack dealer. Going all Die Hard on the goons when they insult Bullock, Michael tears the place apart and beats the living hell out of everybody. He knocks guns out of people’s hands, destroys electronics, and bludgeons the lead drug dealer like Arnold Schwarzenegger. In a film devoid of action, this scene creates tension, albeit through ridiculous action. It was one of those moments when I couldn’t help laughing, completely amused by the film’s navigation into the absurd.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Blind Side, even getting weepy towards the end. Although I didn’t shed any actual tears I was moved by this sentimental piece of Hollywood twaddle. Through the trailer I assigned the film a status I feel is incorrect after watching the film from top to bottom and it’s a prime example of how a trailer is sometimes not the best determiner of a good film. It’s rare I enjoy a film like this, usually believing its something only bovine America would enjoy, but I highly recommend The Blind Side, especially for those looking for a touching, albeit melodramatic, drama about an underdog overcoming sociopolitical odds and becoming a well respected professional football player.
Here’s the trailer