She Said: The Blind Side

By Caroline Thibodeaux

December 10, 2009

I think he weighs more than the three of them combined.

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She said...

A book about American football called The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game hit the non-fiction bookshelves in 2006. Written by Michael Lewis (who also wrote Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game), this book featured two dominant storylines. Part of the book examined how basic NFL offensive strategy was forced to redevelop itself upon the entrance of NY Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor into the league. The book clarified the increased significance and financial importance placed on the offensive line position of left tackle in protecting the head quarterback and therefore, a franchise's entire season and possible near future. The other part of the book detailed the troubled youth and emergence of Michael Oher, an impoverished and undereducated Memphis teenager. Oher would go on to become a college All-American and a first-round draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens. The film The Blind Side focuses on Oher's years before college and the assistance and support he received from Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy - a wealthy, conservative Evangelical Christian couple who take Oher into their home.

Directed by John Lee Hancock (who helmed the superb The Rookie) and starring Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne, Blind Side is one of those movies that does everything the audience expects it do and not a single thing more. Co-starring Quinton Aaron as Oher and country music superstar Tim McGraw as Leigh Anne's husband Sean, Blind Side is not a bad movie at all. But it's not particularly exceptional either. This ultimate holiday feel-good movie is indeed buoyed by a strong effort from Bullock and the story of Oher's journey is at once heartbreaking and edifying, but somehow neither of these benefits provides enough. The beginning, middle and end of the story simply play out and unfold. No real dramatic tension or suspense ever truly emerges and it feels every second of its two hours and six minutes running time. It's a glossy combination of Hallmark made-for TV movie and ABC Afterschool Special. That in and of itself is not even a bad thing really, I'd just like something more for 12 bucks.




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Hancock may have lost this film's snap somewhere during the editing process, but I have a feeling that the source material could have been utilized better from the outset. Lewis' take on the NFL following the spectacle of Taylor's (and Harry Carson's) breaking of Joe Theismann's leg on Monday Night Football is somewhat fascinating and could have provided even more of an interesting angle had it been investigated further. Oher's true story is much more extraordinary and nuanced than the treatment given in this script. Before he moved in with the Tuohys, Oher's life was much like that of a cipher. He was not just woefully behind students his own age academically; it was almost as if he'd just materialized at Briarcrest Christian School one day. (It's called Wingate Christian in the film.) He had been passed through the Memphis school system over and over again despite missing an inordinate amount of classes because it was easier to give him a D than to flunk him. There was basically no existing educational record of him and his life experience was so lacking in foundation that he barely knew how to interact with people and seemed to have no interest in doing so. The concept of understanding what an ocean was, or why the Pilgrims mattered was entirely foreign to him. I would have been interested in watching more of his process in making the leap from total academic non-entity on the fringe of society to eventual honor-roll student. I would have also have liked to see more about the family's ensuing controversy with the NCAA. But I think Hancock, who wrote the screenplay with Lewis, decided instead to create Blind Side: The Leigh Anne Tuohy Story in order to attract an A-List movie actress. I imagine that made it a lot easier for Alcon Entertainment to get the money to make the film.

That particular criticism aside, Sandra Bullock was the right actress to attract. It's entirely her movie from start to finish and she never misses a moment. It's probably her strongest performance since the delightful but sweetly silly Miss Congeniality and the delightful but sweetly silly While You Were Sleeping. I'm not sure if she deserves the Oscar nomination that she's currently being buzzed for, but I did appreciate her work here. Tim McGraw has a couple of winsome, humorous moments as husband Sean. Kathy Bates is sort of wasted in this one but cashing that paycheck with gusto as Miss Sue, the tutor who would work with Oher on through college. Quinton Aaron obviously looks the part but is in a tough place attempting to convey Oher. The script doesn't help him (and it can't really) as for the longest time Oher doesn't speak much to anyone about anything. I'd like to see Aaron do something else next that would fly in the face of his quiet Gentle Giant. Even Nick Saban as Nick Saban exhibited more expression.

As said before, there's nothing terribly wrong with the film, but on the other hand there's nothing terribly exciting about it either. It achieves exactly what it sets out to achieve - tell its story plain and simple and make a ton of money around the holidays. You'll feel good and you probably won't even have to cry first to get there. It will tug at your heartstrings a little, but never too hard. You'll muse on it, but never be challenged. In fact, you'll see Blind Side coming from a mile away.


     


 
 

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