Monday, November 30, 2009

‘The Blind Side’

“The Blind Side” is a wonderful film, but don’t be fooled by the trailers—it’s not a football movie. The game may be a major part of the plot, but this isn’t “Remember the Titans” (thank goodness).

“The Blind Side” is the story of a Southern, Christian, Republican (gasp!) wife and mother of two who takes in a foster kid and gives him a chance for a better life. Notice I didn’t just say “gives him a better life,” because young Michael Oher (played with expressive understatement by Quinton Aaron) has to earn his success through plain ol’ hard work, both in the classroom and on the football field.

While writer/director John Lee Hancock occasionally allows the film to dip in a little cheese, for the most part this is barebones moviemaking—it doesn’t have the glowing sheen of the aforementioned “Titans” or so many other “heartwarming” tales. The football scenes are possibly the closest “The Blind Side” comes to gag-worthy, but making movies out of dramatic sporting events has never been easy, so I give “Blind Side” a pass for accomplishing them adequately. Besides, they only take up, I’d guess, 15 minutes of the entire film. One thing I like about this movie, though, is how it shines a spotlight on the unglamorous position of offensive lineman, which any Redskins fan can tell you is one of the most important positions on the field.

The rest of the film is all about character and family. Sandra Bullock is outstanding as the other lead role, Leigh Anne Tuohy, a fireball who knows what she wants and is not afraid to put herself on the line to get it. She’s portrayed warmly, to be sure, but not without depth; while rock solid in her determination to help Michael, we get glimpses behind her tough exterior to see the doubts and concerns she has about taking such a risk and the implications for her family. The trailers make Bullock seem like a scenery chewer, but there’s much more to what is probably the performance of her career (though, to be fair, I haven’t seen all her movies).

We’ve heard countless success stories about the Michael Ohers of the world before, but rarely has Hollywood given us such an honest and sympathetic look at the people who help those stories come true. I guess some might complain Tuohy seems too good to be true. To them I say: I’m sorry for you. Because people like the Leigh Anne Tuohy portrayed in “The Blind Side” really do exist. I’m fortunate enough to know and love one, and she and her husband quite literally changed the course of my life, not for anything I ever did for them, but just simply out of their boundless love for others. It’s so refreshing to see someone like Tuohy get a starring role in a well-made movie.

“The Blind Side” isn’t exceptional filmmaking, per se, but the movie is exceptional in its portrayal of people who live their lives according to conservative principles. When was the last time you saw a white, Southern, married, Christian couple who belong to the NRA as anything but the butt of a joke on “Saturday Night Live”? More where this came from, please.

Grade: B+

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