At the Movies: “The Blind Side” – Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I saw The Blind Side, the feature film dramatization of the story of outstanding NFL rookie Michael Oher.  Oher, largely uneducated and more than occasionally homeless (played by newcomer Quinton Aaron), found his way into the lives of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy (played by an unrecognizable Tim McGraw and a bulldozing but sincere Sandra Bullock), who took him in and made him a part of their family.

Quinton Aaron and Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side"

The story practically hurts your teeth it’s so saccharine sweet on paper, but in execution I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was something more.  For one thing, despite the marketing and the story’s happy coda, this is not really a football movie.  This is just about a person who happens to play football.  The drama here is larger than winning a regional title.  The Blind Side is a story about the potential of the individual, not only to achieve the seemingly impossible, but to do the right thing.

The Blind Side recognizes, rather honestly and refreshingly, how difficult that can be.  Just when you think The Blind Side is going to continue to carry through with its shimmering canonization of these lovely charitable white people, it realistically calls that charity into question.  It also shows just how easily it is to wander off the path towards what’s right, not just because it’s difficult, but because it’s frighteningly unfamiliar.

Bullock is great as Leigh Anne.  She’s a fearless ball-buster, and while her forceful personality is usually fueled by good-natured selflessness, there are moments of both rage and panic where we see her running on raw, animal maternal instinct.  I think people in the theater sat up just as quickly as the thugs she threatens did when she coolly informs them that her designer clutch conceals a registered handgun.

Newcomer Aaron gives a nice, subtle performance as Oher.  He doesn’t say much, but when he does, as during two confrontations with Bullock, he’s very effective.  Plus, he actually looks the part of an overgrown high school student who isn’t 100% comfortable in his own skin.  There are also good small turns from Kathy Bates as the quirky tutor who helps Oher succeed, and from Adriane Lennox as his troubled birth mother.

The only performance that got on my nerves was that of Jae Head as the Tuohy’s young son, S.J.  He’s your typical mouthy wiseacre little brother, but the act wore thin two-thirds of the way through the movie.  I was even more put off when, during the film’s real life epilogue, it becomes obvious that the creators made S.J. much younger in the film than he actually was during the events on which it is based.

Still, I recommend The Blind Side.  It was a lot smarter and less predictable than I expected it to be; kind of the way the other characters felt about Michael Oher.

It's not quite a fairy tale; perhaps that's best

~ T

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