Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Blind Side (2009)

I figured that a good choice for my first review would be the most recent movie that I watched. My mom bought two movies this week, and this was the only one that I would actually watch with her. (The other movie was New Moon. Ugh. Can’t believe my mom likes that garbage).

Back to The Blind Side. When I first saw previews for the movie, I rolled my eyes. It looked like a schmaltzy, Hallmark presents movie with a higher budget and bigger stars. The kind of movie that has a future being played on cable television following reruns of Friends. But, it had strong word of mouth, was a sleeper hit at the box office, and managed to score Sandra Bullock her first Academy Award. So, there had to be at least something good about it. The Academy is still about quality, right?

The Blind Side is based on the second half of a novel of the same name. It focuses on Michael Oher (Quinton Aron), who currently plays for the Baltimore Ravens. Michael has had a rough life. His mother was a crack addict, and he has been in and out of foster homes. He is an outsider at the all-white Christian school he attends. He is poor, and seemingly unmotivated in the classroom. A number of his teacher’s have given up on him. Things look bleak for Michael, until one night, while walking home, he is stopped by the Tuohy family. Mother Leigh-Ann (Sandra Bullock) offers him the opportunity to stay at her home, and Michael accepts. With the help of the family, Michael gets a new lease on life, and finds a place where he belongs.

Due to his hulking size, Michael is a natural pick for the football team, but has difficulty mastering the rules of the game. Leigh-Anne, in an effective scene, teaches Michael to use his protective instincts (the one area in his aptitude tests where he scored in the 98th Percentile) and pretend that the team is his family. This motivates Michael, and soon University’s are recruiting him. But, Michael needs to raise his GPA to meet minimum levels so he can go to a Division 1 college. I’ll stop talking about the plot here. Needless to say, you have a good idea of how it will end, considering Oher is a starting left tackle for a decent NFL team.

Sandra Bullock has had one of the most inconsistent film careers ever. She’s like able, and has enough charisma to make a movie watchable, but she tends to pick poor material as often as she comes across a good script. For every Speed and Miss Congeniality, there is a Premonition and an All About Steve alongside it. She even produced that latter flick, ending up with a Razzie Award the night before she won the Oscar (She actually accepted the Razzie in person). But, she gives the performance of her career so far in The Blind Side. I’ve come across women like Leigh-Ann, the middle-aged Christian sports mom, and she basically nails that personality type. There is a fair bit of depth to her performance, and none of the melodramatics that are common in these types of roles. She instead plays it subtle, letting the viewer realize there is more to Leigh-Anne than blonde hair and a cross around her neck. Whether her performance was better than the other actresses nominated, that is another question. I’ll answer it when I watch the other films.

There are good supporting roles. Kathy Bates is her usually reliable self as Michael’s tutor. Quinton Aron had a very difficult role to pull off as Michael. It takes a lot of skill to play a young man that is so traumatized by his past that people think he is a mute or stupid, and then to finally open up. He does it well, and I am interested to see if he gets more work. And I still have difficulty recognizing Tim McGraw without the cowboy hat or goatee, but he was okay in the film.

The movie is padded in several spots, and it could have been trimmed down to improve the pacing. The brief subplot of whether Michael really wanted to go to Mississippi State or whether the Tuohy’s influenced him to go there was introduced and resolved in such a small amount of time that one wonders whether or not it could have been left on the cutting room floor. But, I find it to be a rather small complaint for this movie. The movie itself is a little formulaic, but the formula works, so I’m not complaining. You’ll feel happy when you see the actual footage of Michael Oher being drafted and celebrating with his adoptive family.

Despite the flaws, The Blind Side is a solid movie, worth a rental for the strong performance of Sandra Bullock. Here’s hoping that there is another performance inside Bullock in the future.

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