By JP Chapman | November 19, 2009
Directed: John Lee Hancock
Writer(s): (Screenplay) John Lee Hancock, (Book) Michael Lewis
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Kathy Bates
Poor man’s Precious. The timing may be coincidental, but that’s where it feels Hollywood is going with The Blind Side. A little bigger budget, but also less of a contender to the academy than Lee Daniels current “it” movie, The Blind Side seems poised to hold its own commercially, but is treading less prestigious territory artistically. While telling a truly remarkable story, the literary origins it is derived from may be where the artistic line is kept somewhat subdued. Based on Michael Lewis’s book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game”, the film version of The Blind Side cuts the second half of Lewis’s title out of the story, as well as the first half of his book (a study on left the left tackle position made famous by Lawrence “LT” Taylor). But let’s be grateful for this decision; because let’s face it, who wants to go to the movies to listen to an expanded definition of the left tackle position (*cough* Texans *cough*).
What The Blind Side does cover, is a truly amazing story of hope and redemption. Based on the life of Michael Oher and set in Memphis, the film traces Oher’s phenomenal story of homelessness on the streets of East Memphis to All-American offensive left tackle, and ultimately a draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens. The Blind Side approaches Oher’s story from the perspective of the Tuohy family, an upper class white family from Memphis, living in an insular world of old money. From the confines of their model family, home, and life, the Tuohys notice Michael (as played by Quinton Aaron), when other families choose to look the other way. At the time, Oher is living on the streets, wearing the same clothes every day, and stealing leftover food from school events, but has been given a full ride scholarship to a prestigious private Christian high school in Memphis. Sandra Bullock plays Leigh Ann Tuohy, the no-nonsense, take charge matriarch of the Tuohy clan, who insists that the family take Michael in. Meeting him where he’s at, she helps lead her family and his school in giving this boy a second chance in life. As time progresses, Michael’s natural talent for football is exposed, and he is able to break the cycle of drug addiction (and ultimately death) that many of his former friends and family have already fallen into.
The Blind Side is a great story-there’s no denying that. And many of the performances are well done. My main qualm with this film is that it would seem John Lee Hancock took what was a remarkable story and just put a plastic, Hollywood bow on it; transforming it from something truly special to a “cookie cutter” family movie. Predictable dialogue choices and obvious comic relief via annoying side characters were the biggest culprits, but Hancock’s overall methods of character development went a long ways towards hurting this film. I’ve already heard Oscar buzz around Bullock’s portrayal of Leigh Ann Tuohy, which I see as a little overkill, but she did do a good job of breaking out of her normal character set. And, I hate to say this….but Tim McGraw actually did a fairly decent job. Finally, while he didn’t do much to stretch outside of a solitary emotion set for the character, I’m still curious to see what becomes of Quinton Aaron’s career as time progresses. The biggest disappointment of the film from an acting standpoint, came via Kathy Bates. Sadly, I felt she just phoned this performance in for the paycheck.
The Blind Side succeeds in crafting an uplifting, feel good family movie that simultaneously shows us the type of people we should be. However; I can’t help but have other sports movies come to mind (Rudy in particular) and am filled with regret that with the story behind this film, it could have been so much more.