Film: The Blind Side
Director: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Quinton Aaron, Sandra Bullock
Runtime: 128 mins
Review: Michael Allard
It’s as if The Waterboy was never made. Kathy Bates, who played Adam Sandler’s mother in that film which pre-empted the much better sports-movie spoofs of the noughties has even returned to American football in a supporting role in The Blind Side. Inspired by a true story/inspired by a book about a true story, the film recounts the journey of Michael Oher (played by relative newcomer Quinton Aaron) from broken-home teenagehood in the Memphis projects to his successful signing with NFL team the Baltimore Ravens in 2009.
John Lee Hancock’s screenplay focuses almost entirely on his relationship to a well-off Tennessee family dominated by successful interior designer Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), who took the homeless Oher into their house whilst he studied at the same school as the Tuohy children. Significant details – such as how the black, working-class Oher came to study at an all-white, middle-class, Christian high school – are explained, but never explored as a part of his maturation. Whilst there are some subtle hints about the enterprising drive of the sports industry assisting the success of the 6′ 4″ Oher (played by 6′ 8″ newcomer Quinton Aaron), such lapses make The Blind Side more a leisurely underdog fantasy than a realistic biography. We’re told that this hidden talent was facilitated largely by the philanthropy of the adoptive family, and find out relatively little about him. In one scene, his actual mother gives Touhy her blessing to take care of him, and the only reasoning the audience is given is that she’s a good person face to face with a good rich person, and we find out nothing about her either.
One irritating child actor aside, none of the cast can go particularly wrong in a sugar-coated film where the characters are so two-dimensional. Bullock’s Oscar win, much like Jeff Bridges’, feels like it’s been awarded more for the person than for the performance: even in Miss Congeniality she was given more work to do, whether in comedy or emotional investment. Leigh Anne’s family are never seen having major arguments, and for a portion of the film you might find yourself as chirpy as the marimbas of Carter Burwell’s light, unimposing score. But once some emotional struggles emerge before the film’s conclusion, they come across as forced, lacking emotional pull and belonging more to a Movie of the Week rather than an award-winning drama.