07 December 2009

Review: "The Blind Side

Is there a mature working actress today who more invokes memories of the 90s than Sandra Bullock? With the exception of her role in Crash, she has only done a series of sappy romantic comedies that garnered little attention, but were widely promoted. These films struggled to capture any of her true acting ability. She is the quintessential 90s actress, similar to Julia Roberts, and they have both struggled to translate their former success in this decade--with the exception being Julia Roberts' Oscar-winning performance in Erin Brockovich (although it barely counts, as it was released in 2000). With The Blind Side it finally seemed that Sandra Bullock had found a film that could challenge her artistically. Based on a true story, the film depicts a Southern family that opened their home to a young man who became a football star. Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, the matriarch of the family whose own compassion and stubbornness help the young Michael Oher succeed. It is a shame that the life story of a young black man had to be adapted for the screen as the story of the wealthy, white woman that saved him. The film did suffer from over promotion: there was a preview before almost every film I saw this fall (which is a decent amount) and in the weeks leading up to its release there was hardly a commercial break on television that did not include at least one advertisement.

Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is a young man without a future. His mother is a drug addict in an area of Memphis where boys turn to drugs and violence instead of sports and education. He was fortunate to have two people fight for him to attend a private Christian school, where he became the only black student. He had been out of school for so long that his test scores were low, and almost every single teacher saw no potential in him. He befriended a young boy named SJ Tuohy, and one night driving home from a school event his mother Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) stopped and invited him into their home. Michael slowly became an integral part of the Tuohy family, a brother to SJ and Collins, and a son to Leigh Anne and Sean (Tim McGraw, who must be the template of the loving southern husband). Michael shows a real aptitude for football, and becomes such a star on his high school team that he is eventually heavily recruited by nearly every college in the Southeast Conference. The real heart of the story exists in how Michael changes those around him, and how his presence in their lives affects them.

The Blind Side is as formulaic as any true story, which means that it is enjoyable to watch but fails to really resonate once the films ends. The real Michael Oher is a rookie lineman for the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL, and it almost seems unfair to him that this film was released during his first professional season. Sandra Bullock has created one of her finest performances, but I did find myself often amazed at how some scenes focused more on the shape of body. This kind of role may have won Julia Roberts awards glory, but the state of cinema has changed. It is films that require risk and selflessness that are capturing trophies. The Blind Side has obviously taken some cinematic license, and as a football fan I think I might have enjoyed learning the real facts of Michael Oher's life instead of seeing this film.

My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

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