Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Blind Side

How did the American sports movie become synonymous with crying? It seems like every sports movie released lately induces my man-tears. I’m not ashamed to cry during a movie – I do it all the time. I get very emotionally involved in any movie I watch, so the slightest key change in score, or a hug from a dad, will set me off. And then my wife makes fun of me the rest of the evening.

I love a good sports movie, especially the football variety. Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall, Invincible, Varsity Blues; they’re all great movies. Some say Rudy is the best, but I have to disagree. There’s no better football movie than Lucas. Lucas made the slow-clap a sports movie classic. Did you know that the slow-clap was invented by hand model Pierre Von Clap? It was actually ridiculed in its early days - why clap slow when you can clap fast, and finish in time for tea? Lucas came along and just tore that logic up.

One could argue though, that these football tear-jerkers are becoming formulaic. It’s probably true, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad movies. When I first saw the preview for The Blind Side, I thought, awesome – definitely seeing that one – what could be better than a true-life football story? But after repeated commercials and hearing the line about never having a bed, boo-hoo, over and over, I worried that The Blind Side would be overly emotional – schmaltz for the sake of schmaltz. I also worried that Sandra Bullock’s thick southern accent (“You kin thank me lateRRR”) would drive me crazy. I almost gave up on this movie when the commercials claimed that Bullock was sure to win an Oscar.

It was my wife’s turn to pick the movie last weekend, and she picked The Blind Side. And I’m really glad she did. It’s a little bit schmaltzy, but overall, The Blind Side is a pretty good movie.

The Blind Side is about the early life of Ravens tackle Michael Oher. He spent most of his childhood running away from foster homes and sleeping on any couch he could find. His teachers, when he had them, wouldn’t work with him and kept passing him to get rid of him. Leigh Anne Tuohy, played by Sandra Bullock, eventually welcomed him into her family’s home.

I’m not convinced that Sandra Bullock will win any awards for her performance but she did a fine job. Her accent wasn’t that annoying and it was subtle for the majority of her dialogue – I barely noticed it at all. The real standout performance here belongs to Quinton Aaron, the actor playing Michael Oher. He did a really good job for his big debut. His sadness was believable as was his compassion.

Despite the dismal life Oher comes from, The Blind Side isn’t constantly depressing. There are several funny moments and I wouldn’t consider them cheap comic relief at all. The little brother is hilarious and some great comedic situations arise with Oher being in a new living situation. Overall, The Blind Side is mostly positive, upbeat, and moving.

In reality the Tuohy family experienced some controversy. Many people thought Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy brought Michael into their home to convince him to play football for their alma mater, The University of Mississippi. The film doesn’t shy away from that controversy. The Tuohy’s are not portrayed as angels and I appreciate that. Leigh Anne doesn’t fight back, she actually questions her motivations. The film feels more authentic this way.

There was a part I didn’t like and actually thought about this for a long time after. Leigh Anne has lunch regularly with three well-to-do women similar to herself. They get a little weirded-out when Leigh Anne tells them about Michael. Leigh Anne jumps on the ole high horse and says, “Shame on you.” I didn’t believe this part at all – it just seemed like petty chick-flick vilification, like when Julia Roberts tells off the snobby sales clerk in Pretty Woman. Up until that point we don’t see Leigh Anne as a better person than her peers. She’s a decent person and cares about people, but we don’t see any evidence that she isn’t a snob or a racist like her friends. So her shame-on-you line seems hypocritical. Maybe the writer wanted her to seem hypocritical - but that irony was just lost on me.

The Blind Side is a pretty decent movie. There are emotional ups and downs but it’s not overly done. There are lots of laughs and some great football action on the field as well. I don’t remember anyone breaking out the slow clap though.

3 Rebels and half a Raven


Geof said...

Invincible was good until it flat out lied at the end. His TD run back was called back for a penalty. He was also having affairs with his students...that's why his wife left him in real life. So that was poop!

Also, there is no shame for man-tears extracted from films on sports.

Dolphin said...

Loved this review. I also agree with you that Quinton Aaron was incredible.

Thought this was by far Sandra Bullock's best performance, but hadn't thought it Oscar worthy-- particularly when up against the likes of Helen Miren, Meryl Streep, and even the two talented young newcomers from Precious and an Education.

Still, it was a strong performance in a terrific film (which I agree could easily have drifted into schmaltz) and she's allegedly quite a nice gal, so I don't begrudge her. ;-)


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