Being British and slightly ignorant, I have no idea of the rules of American Football, nor do I care to find them out. I have caught glimpses of it on TV at times (mainly the Super Bowl and I really only watched a bit of that to see what the fuss was about) but it doesn’t appeal to me. However, there is certainly something about it that I’m missing because there is a fair share of movies covering the sport. The Blind Side is a standout in the genre for two reasons:
1) it is the highest grossing sports movie ever.
2) Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her performance.
And yet, I didn’t feel like the football was a main focus of the narrative until about 30 minutes before the end.
Based on a true story, The Blind Side sees (excuse the pun) Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher, pronounced “awe”. Oher is a giant of a man; about 7 foot tall and over weight. He has no academic records, sleeps on a friends couch and was taken from his drug addicted mother when he was a child. As is the case with a lot of people, his past shapes his personality as an adult; Oher is a shy, fragile being. He barely says a word for about 40 minutes, but speaks with his facial expressions, and does an excellent job of it. His life is changed drastically after being taken in by Leigh-Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock, but what is with these unusual surnames?) who, when returning from her daughters volleyball class, finds Michael wandering the freezing road. She lets Michael stay the night at her family’s house, but one night turns into months and Michael is accepted into the Tuohy family.
In the short amount of time they are together, Leigh-Anne gives Michael more support and love than he’s ever received before. She gets him home schooled so he can excel in the predominantly white Christian school he attends, and gets him a car. Like I said, the first half of this film has hardly any football in it, only the opening 5 minutes which is more of an informative look at what a Blind Side actually is.
Anyway, because of his size and Michael expressing interest in the game, Leigh-Anne sees the potential for him to be a player on the school football team. Her instincts pay off, as Michael becomes the star player and is soon a much wanted player for top college teams. After this, there is an attempted “twist”, and I know it’s based on a true story but it seems too fabricated to be reality.
I’ll start with the big one: this movie won an Oscar. Bullock did, to be specific. Was it deserved? I honestly don’t think so. Thinking of reasons why she could’ve have won it, I finally decided it was because the rest of the cast were so average and ordinary (with the exception of SJ, her son, who was too exaggerative in the role) in their performances, it made an established actress (Bullock) shine; so the Oscar really should’ve gone to everyone else, for making her look good. The accent seemed a little too forced at times, ultimately having a comical or mocking tone. I’m not saying she was terrible; but there certainly have been better. Kathy Bates (who also stars in this movie as the tutor) is the perfect example of an Oscar winning performance, as the crazed fan in Stephen King’s Misery. Nevertheless, this is one of Bullock’s finest pictures, and she should focus on more drama than romantic comedies.
There was always going to be the point of stereotyping, and to an extent, there are aspects of it here, with a character even saying the immortal line “I’ll pop a cap in yo’ ass!” But fortunately, it is not frequent and it appears that effort has been made to keep the focus on the narrative and the two main characters rather than go into racism and stereotyping.
One of my main gripes is that for an underdog story, everything seems to go smoothly, without any real dilemmas or problems. Michaels acceptance into the Christian school is laughable; the board of teachers sitting around contemplating it and the PE teacher basically says “Well he can play basketball…” and he’s accepted. The only real glimpse of conflict is towards the end, but by this point you know nothing can go wrong.
To conclude, at over 2 hours long The Blind Side is overly lengthy, and it shows. But that is the problem with true life stories that developed over a period of years; the movie about it is going to have to compromise on some aspects, whilst still retaining the main points of narrative. It kept my attention throughout, which I didn’t actually expect it to, and that’s probably because I expected an all-out American football movie. What I got was an attempted feel good story that doesn’t make me feel good, or feel anything further than how I felt when I entered the screen.