November 20, 2009
Review - " The Blind Side " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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“The Blind Side” dutifully chronicles the transformation of Oher (played by newcomer Quinton Aaron with the proper less-is-
more approach) from blank slate to a fully formed young man, emphasizing Leigh Ann (Sandra Bullock) at the expense of
Sean (Tim McGraw). Bullock brings her trademarked spunkiness to the mother hen role, delivering an iron-willed woman who
looks past appearances to do the right thing.
“You are changing that boy’s life,” notes one of Leigh Anne’s condescending ladies-who-lunch pals.
“No,” Leigh Anne replies. “He’s changing mine.”
That solemn rebuke captures the spirit of the movie in a nutshell, though, strangely, we never see any actual change in
Bullock’s indomitable Memphis mama from the beginning of the movie to the end. Husband Sean, consigned to couch duty
for most of the film (when he isn’t commenting on how plucky his wife is), tells Oher that Leigh Ann is an “onion,” but
Hancock doesn’t go beyond peeling the first layer.
The movie does address allegations that the Tuohys took an interest in Oher so they could steer the prodigy to Ole Miss,
their beloved alma mater. That inclusion seems designed more to give the leisurely film some much-needed tension than
actually probe the issue, since the obstacles facing Oher rarely feel threatening in the film.
As was the case with “The Rookie,” Hancock aims to present a reality that comforts and inspires, populated by people
actively living their beliefs.
If “The Blind Side” weren’t based on a true story - the real Oher ultimately was adopted by the Tuohys, thrived in his new
environment and currently plays for the Baltimore Ravens - it likely would be dissed by dismissive critics as a simplistic white-
liberal fantasy. (It’ll be interesting to see how many reviewers won’t be able to resist comparing the film with a certain other
recent drama about an overweight, illiterate African-American teen who transcends humble origins.)
In fact, the veracity of the storyline won’t be enough to prevent some of the professionally outraged from accusing “Blind
Side” of implying that underprivileged black folks must rely on rich, well-intentioned white folks - Leigh Ann is a successful
interior decorator, and her husband owns a gazillion fast-food restaurants - to escape the slums and be all they can be.
But what happened, happened. And even though Hancock applies more than a smidge of sugar-coating to his
dramatization, “The Blind Side” remains involving, affecting and, for the most part, emotionally honest. Better still, the pic has
an insightful and evenhanded view of racial and political realities in the contemporary South.
Leigh Anne is disappointed but not
entirely surprised by the not-so-veiled
racism of her well-to-do-friends, which
the pic dutifully acknowledges. On the
other hand, Leigh Anne and Sean
fleetingly own up to prejudices of their
own after hiring a left-leaning tutor
(played by Kathy Bates) for Michael.
“Who ever thought,” Sean remarks,
“we would have a black son before we
knew a Democrat?”
Newcomer Aaron gracefully treads a
fine line, playing Michael as neither
dullard nor idiot savant, but making him
emotionally vulnerable, painfully
self-aware and surprisingly resilient.
Better still, Aaron more than holds his
own opposite Bullock, enabling the
flick to come off as something far more
rewarding and complex than a mere
starring vehicle for Bullock.
The Blind Side
Directed By: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates, Quinton Aaron
The redemption-minded sports flick “The Blind Side” serves its inspiration
straight-up with no twist. Writer-director John Lee Hancock wisely lets the
true story of Michael Oher - the African-American teen who found a home
and, eventually, football stardom after being adopted by a wealthy Memphis
family - speak for itself. That direct focus delivers a feel-good crowd-pleaser,
but it also drains the film of the kind of subtle nuances that might have
separated it from other Hollywood Hallmark-like efforts, including Hancock’s
own “The Rookie.”
As chronicled in “Moneyball” author Michael Lewis’ finely reported book,
“The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game,” Oher spent his first 16 years living in
a shell. When he improbably landed at Memphis’ Briarcrest Christian School,
he had an IQ of 80 and an inability to cope with a mere conversation. His
prospects looked dim until he was taken in by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy.
For everything he lacked in life (family, food, a place to sleep), Oher had
been blessed with the rare blend of size, strength and quickness sought by
football coaches for the valuable left tackle position. That spot on the
offensive line protects a right-handed quarterback from hits he can’t see
coming. If Oher could somehow develop his raw talent into practiced
technique, he could win a college scholarship and, possibly, a professional