Thursday, December 3, 2009

Movie Review: The Blind Side

Maybe you can blame All About Steve for this, but I did not expect The Blind Side to work. From the previews, it looked like Sandra Bullock was putting on a cheesy accent and starring in another chick flick. Yawn. Yet, when push came to shove, positive reviews and good word-of-mouth convinced me that maybe this movie was worth watching. So, instead of seeing the depressing story of a black teenager forgotten by society (Precious), I opted for the wholly uplifting story of a black teenager forgotten by society. Let me say, you’d have to be one of the most cynical people alive to leave The Blind Side unaffected. It’s a charming movie that defies expectations and gives Sandra Bullock the chance to shine. And boy, does she shine.

Based on the second sentence of this review, you’ve hopefully deduced that The Blind Side is not a traditional chick flick. Rather, it is a sports biopic that has more in common with Remember the Titans than The Family Stone (ok, I had a hard time thinking of a reasonable chick flick parallel…but that further proves my point that this is not a chick flick). The movie centers on Leigh Anne Tuohy, played with grit and charm by Bullock, and Michael Oher, played by newcomer Quinton Aaron. Leigh Anne is a socialite who takes Michael under her wing after she sees him walking home alone in the freezing cold. Michael has just entered into a new school, but shuts himself off from those around him. Per usual, I won’t go much further into the plot, but the core of the film is the relationship between Leigh Anne and Michael, and director John Lee Hancock plays it out beautifully.

My biggest gripe with the movie is its tendency to play things a little bit too optimistically. Michael’s troubles are not substantially delved into and any of the challenges that the family faces are overcome easily and without a great deal of sacrifice. The family’s immediate acceptance of Michael is believable given the performances and script, but since this is based on a true story I wonder if the reality of the situation was a bit more difficult. This movie was built for the holiday season, so I suppose imposing a bit of the Hollywood formula is to be expected.

All that being said, the film is amazingly inspirational. Not only is Michael’s journey out of poverty very motivational, but also Leigh Anne’s commitment to Michael shows a strength of character that should inspire many people to be generous this winter. Bullock really does a wonderful job making Leigh Anne seem like a real person. For the first time in her career, I forgot that I was watching Sandra Bullock. Not all the time, mind you, but there were moments. An Oscar nomination might be too much to ask for, but I think she deserves all of the critical attention she has received thus far. Aaron also does a nice job with Michael. He plays him very reserved, a gentle giant of sorts. But he opens up as the film goes on and Aaron makes his character changes seem very believable. Finally, it was a treat seeing Kathy Bates appear towards the end of the film in a small, but important role.

So, go see The Blind Side. I think movie criticism these days has veered towards rewarding films that are particularly artistic or inventive. Perhaps The Blind Side sticks with convention for most of the film, but it is convention executed in the most effective manner. It reminded me that a predictable film can still soar if it is filled with wit, charm, and good performances.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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