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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Why You Should See "The Blind Side"


Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher
Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) in his old neighborhood
left to right: Jae Head (S.J.), Quinton Aaron ("Big Mike"), Sandra Bullock (Leigh Anne Tuohy)
Sandra Bullock(Leigh Anne Tuohy), Quinton Aaron (Michael Oher)

As I have mentioned so many times here I don't review movies that I don't like. In fact, for me to review a movie I have to practically love it. "The Blind Side" starring Sandra Bullock is one of those films for me.

At first when I read about it the film looked like another one of those stretched out made for TV movies you see on Lifetime. We had thought we were going to see it several times and actually made plans to go see it, but every time as the actual time drew near we cancelled our plans and decided not to go to the movies at all. In fact, the movie selection for the past couple of weeks has been slim. We almost went to see "Precious", but again, even though it is playing at my favorite theater, The Jacob Burns Center, we didn't see it. Something about it made me remember back to the 70's and 80's when characters like the main character here were used by right wing politicians to make their point that welfare was a crock. I remember wondering how many people were scamming the welfare system really. As I haven't seen this film and don't read reviews beforehand, I have no idea what the film is all about except for the coming attractions. It's just that having gone through that era I didn't want to see those images again. A lot of people have worked very hard to bring themselves to a point where they are self sufficient and living a middle class life.

Anyway, "The Blind Side" is about this very large, athletic boy introduced to us in the beginning of the film as "Big Mike". He has spent much of his childhood sleeping on the sofa in his friend's house, since his mother is a drug addict. His friend's father thinks it would be a good idea to get him out of the neighborhood and enrolls him in a Christian school on the good side of Memphis, Tennessee. The boy has only the clothes on his back and an extra tee shirt he carries around in a plastic bag. His grade point average from his old school is zero and he doesn't communicate with anyone at all. However, the football coach sees a linebacker in him and persuades the teachers to take an interest in getting his average up so he can be on the team.

The teachers start to pay attention to him, testing him orally, and it is really his Biology teacher who sees his intelligence in writing he throws away rather than show it to anyone. But it isn't until his encounter with Leigh Anne Tuohy, played by Sandra Bullock, that his life changes drastically. She finds him walking alone on the road in the rain with only a tee shirt though it's cold and offers him a ride, her sofa, and finally invites him into the family. His relationship with S.J. her son, and Collins, her daughter shows the strain that can develop when an African American boy from the wrong side of Memphis goes to school in a white Christian private school.

To its credit the film doesn't show the barbs of the children, instead it skirts that and shows the effects that this prejudice has on them. But the strength of this film, and why I am recommending that you go see it, is the relationship between Michael and Mrs. Tuohy. She treats him as one of her own almost from the first when she realizes the character of the boy. Her determination to give him a good home and help him play football is what moves the story and it also forms a strong undercurrent of humanity that runs through the whole film.

There are little touches that show how when you treat people with respect you cannot allow others to degrade them in any way. Everyone in the family fights back in their own way and supports Michael. Michael in turn is an amazing character. Quinton Aaron plays him with a quiet dignity.

Sandra Bullock plays the tough as nails with a heart of gold ex-cheerleader who is now a big name decorator who lives the American dream. When we first see her she is driving a beamer and on her cell phone constantly. She is always dressed like she were going to a luncheon and her friends are the same. But she really shines in the scenes where she is home and dressed down. She slips into the skin of Leigh Anne Tuohy, who is also a wife and a mother. And she gathers Michael into her family, defending him in all kinds of situations. Some of them are pretty scary too.:)

I won't give away much about this film, because I always like to be surprised. But I would say this is heartwarming in the nicest way. She fights for Michael like a lion would for her cub. She does everything she can for him in every way a mother can take care of a child. Of course, she has the support of her husband, played by Tim McGraw, who simply nods his head and acquiesces to anything she wants.

So to go back to why you should see this film. First of all, you should go out of the theater feeling a little bit better than when you arrived. Secondly, the story is gripping and there are a lot of good football scenes. The little boy is so cute and an excellent actor. If you are a fan of Friday Night Lights you might remember when Tim Riggins lived next door to the single mother with a little boy. He played the little boy and as S.J. he is a great brother to Michael.
Third, Sandra Bullock's performance is outstanding. It is very different from her usual comic shtick. Fourth, the performance of the boy who plays "Big Mike". At least I think he's a boy, but it's hard to tell. From the very first moment you meet him you can tell he's a good person from his eyes. Though he doesn't talk for almost a quarter of the movie, he is interesting to look at on camera and very believable as a boy who is desperately crying out, but no one can hear him.
Finally, there is a small part with Kathy Bates as Michael Oher's tutor.

Critics for the most part have given it good reviews. Their criticism is that it is too sentimental and maybe too conservative. Being a liberal Democrat and from the north, I am unfamiliar with the world that this portrays. But even though Leigh Anne Tuohy and her family are Bush supporters, Republican Conservatives and Christian this doesn't bother me. As I mentioned the humanity of this film, which is honest and not at all like some reviewers are saying, "Lifetime movie like" is what I love about the movie. Also, unlike "Precious" which follows the same route of helping a poor girl out of her ghetto life, this is based on a true story. Somehow that makes this more credible and less manipulative.

Read A.O. Scott's review if you don't mind being spoiled. In keeping with my usual practice I am linking you to all the reviews for "The Blind Side". You will see that mine might be a little too enthusiastic, but then again, I am not a jaded burnt out critic who has had to sit through some of the worst movies ever made, this year.:) Also, "The Blind Side" was number 1 this weekend over "Twilight, New Moon". What does that say to you?

I have been thinking of a rating system and have decided on Bettys for Betty Boop. I know someone who uses boops, so mine will be Bettys:
Rating System
1 Betty Poor, not worth seeing
2 Bettys See it only if there is nothing else to see - wait for DVD
3 Bettys Worth seeing, but don't rush to see it.
4 Bettys Good, but not worth standing on line to see. One great performance or direction is outstanding.
5 Bettys Excellent, great performances, excellent direction

As you can see it has the whole package. "The Blind Side" blind sided me with its humanity and strength of spirit. (I couldn't resist that one. Sorry for the bad pun.):) I give this film:

5 Bettys

Until the next time, don't forget to check out PW Best of Children's Books for 2009 in my last blog. Also, my December Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages Blog Talk Radio show is now definite and I'm looking forward to it very much. Thank you to everyone who continues to read my meanderings. Follow me on Twitter: @Barbehr. Have a great week!! Please feel free to leave a comment.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I will be posting every day during Chanukah and if you leave a comment I will be giving away a children's book a day. I haven't decided the criteria yet.:)

2 comments:

  1. Okay. I am leaving the first comment here. I waited a couple of days and no one is commenting. If you are visiting and not commenting, how am I going to know who you are and if you liked what I wrote!

    So I hope this will bring on lots of comments about my comment.:)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for this honest and balanced post. Indeed, the film takes a pinhole peek into a world that to many may seem foreign but in reality isn't that remote. We have extremes in personalities and beliefs all around us. However, love can cut through all that. For more on how practicing what we preach can change a life, check out this post: http://richardtgarner.blogspot.com/2009/12/renewing-stars-faith.html

    ReplyDelete

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