Sandra Bullock! Oscars! True stories! What a combination. On paper, The Blind Side should be a great movie – Bullock wins an Oscar for her performance, the film is nominated in the Best Film category, it’s a feel-good tale… But what do you know, it’s really not that great.
The story goes that Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is given the opportunity to go to a posh Christian school in Mississippi because he shows some potential in sports. He struggles in class and his teachers wonder why he was accepted in the first place. After a Thanksgiving pageant, Leigh Ann Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and her family notice Michael shivering, wet and cold on the side of the road and persuade him to go home with them. What was meant to be an overnight stay turns into days and weeks, and eventually Michael is adopted by the family, who, with the help of a tutor (Kathy Bates), help him to get to the University of Mississippi on a football scholarship.
Was I really giving anything away there? After all, I’ve already said that it’s a feel-good movie so we could all expect that there would be a happy ending. My problem with this film is that, yes, it’s based on a book, but then they could have made the very tedious climax a little bit more thrilling. There could have been something else there to keep your interest – it was about as predictable as the sun rising every morning.
I did speculate that Sandra Bullock’s performance would be the main thing carrying the film along when I commented on the Oscars earlier this year: I don’t think I was wrong. She is both fiery and amicable as Leigh Ann and lights up every scene that she is in, which is lucky since she’s in pretty much every single scene. Some of her lines are pretty hilarious as well. I remember, through one blind eye and a sniffy nose (I had a cold you see), her shouting “Hey, Deliverance! You see 74? That’s my son!” For some reason I found that hilarious.
That quote actually shows that the film has the theme of race running through, but it never quite breaks through and has the impact that it ought to have. In the very first scene for instance, one of the main characters Michael comments that “white people are strange” because there isn’t a protective grill over the top of a crate of basketballs. But the idea that there’s some kind of difference, or at least indifference, between the black and white community never really comes through. Are we supposed to feel it when Michael walks through the door of his science classroom and everyone stares at him? Because that’s what happens to every new kid in a school. Are we supposed to feel disgusted when Leigh Ann is mocked and goaded by a group of black youths on the wrong side of town? Well, maybe she should have expected that. Even the most blatant racism isn’t shocking: when Leigh Ann is having dinner with her friends and they ask if she’s worried about having Michael around her teenage daughter, I got the sense that this theme was randomly thrown in there to try and make the movie more powerful than it would have been.
The thing is, The Blind Side shows some promise but perhaps it’s the fact that it’s lumbered with the reference material (i.e. the book of the same name that it’s based on) that holds it back from being a realy powerful, affecting drama. Instead it wallows somewhere in a sea of mediocrity, hoping that Bullock’s performance and the fact we know everything will be alright in the end will help us see it through to the end.
Overall, I could probably think of other, better ways to spend a night out but I could also think of worse. The fact is, the movie is so safe and middle-of-the-road that aside from some good acting and the occasional laugh it’s not essential viewing. Too bad. I had some oddly high-hopes for this one.