Friday, April 12, 2013

The Blind Side

Hope for courage, but try for honor.

Watching the "true" story of Michael Oher, you get the feeling that the filmmakers are setting you up for a tearjerker, wanting to play with your emotions, and they do. 

"The Blind Side" is a story of a young African-American man growing up in Memphis Tennessee, amongst the drugs, the violence, and the poverty of the street. Taking in a large, introverted, but kind hearted Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), is Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and her very Right-Winged Republican family. They help this young man get on his feet academically and help him build his potential as a football defensive tackle. Although many may classify this film as a "sports" picture, this movie is pure drama. Takings its time building character, emotion, sympathy for Michael. The director John Lee Hancock ("The Alamo," "The Rookie") can afford to do so in a biography.

The filmmakers have changed the names to protect the guilty. Michael (Big Mike) Oher is allowed in to the WASP Christian School, Wingate, (really the Bainbridge Christian School) in Memphis Tennessee, with the help of Coach Burt Cotton (Ray McKinnon), stating that letting the boy in would be; "The Christian thing to do." Despite the teachers fear that they were setting the boy up for failure, we learn that Michael's childhood environment has him entering Wingate with a less than average start. Several teachers make an effort to help catch up and work with him academically; it isn't until the rich Tuohy family step in one rainy night to help the boy. Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne plays the tough, yet compassionate football mom to a teen aged daughter, Collins, played by the rock group "Genesis's" lead singer Phil Collins's daughter -- Lily Collins (confusing, huh?). Leigh Anne is also mom to 10-year-old son, "S.J." Country singer Tim McGraw plays the marshmallow husband Sean, owner of 81 “Yum! Brands” (Pepsi owned fast-food restaurants -- Taco Bell, KFC, and, Long John Silver's) franchises, and he pretty much lets his wife have her way with everything. 

Flashbacks alluding to traumatic images from Michael's childhood provide us insight to his introverted nature. Through most of the first half of the film, Michael has remarkably little dialog and most of the emotion that Quinton gives his character is through facial expressions, creating an atmosphere of sadness. On the bright side, S.J. (Jae Head) the son, plays his role like a young kid getting a hefty older brother as a toy for Christmas. The real bonds in this film are with Michael and S.J. as he does in fact introduces Mike as his big brother, coaches him on the football plays, acts as his athletic trainer, and also as his negotiator. In return Michael acts as his protector, when in a car accident, Michael, blocks the airbag from crushing S.J. The family also has to deal with the controversy of accepting a African-American person into their family. Leigh Anne (Bullock), deals with integration with her family when she includes Michael on the family Christmas card, and with her society friends whom she lunches with. I do want to mention the character of Miss Sue played by Kathy Bates. In Miss Sue, a Democrat and Michael's hired tutor, we see a woman who plays her part altruistically. Yet we see glimpses of the good-old,-evil Kathy from "Misery" emerge when she tells Michael about the dead bodies "under" the University of Tennessee stadium, in an attempt to prejudice Michael's decision towards going to school at the University of Mississippi. This action will come back to haunt the story later. Racial controversy is also displayed and is in a powerful scene with the NCAA investigator that brings about the family's motivation for helping Michael. This scene leads us, the viewer, to examine it as well. Michael also must deal with his being a stranger in a strange land as well. In going back to his hood, he encounters the gang and their willingness to drag him back down into their world.

The story that the filmmakers are telling in, “The Blind Side,” works well for me. I liked Quinton Aaron's acting, his facial expressions, his looks of longing, and his looks of hope. Looking lost and alone in films nowadays seems to be a trend ("Gran Torino," "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant"). I am not a big Sandra Bullock fan, however, I thought she did an exceptional performance relating to Quinton's Michael. I also enjoyed Jae Head's performance as S.J., however, I think; he will be easily typecast into Macaulay Culkin type roles. Tim McGraw and Lily Collins did an average performance playing non-central family members. I did like Adriane Lenox's performance as Michael's crack addicted mother and a shout out for Omar J. Dorsey as the Hurt Village "gangsta," "Big Tony.” There are no special effects worth mentioning in this film but plenty of action when you get to the football scenes, and lots of heavy emotion throughout the film.

Overall, I thought this is a wonderful film for the family and family values. This film is about honor and courage, as made clear when Sean Tuohy explains to Michael the meaning of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, "The Charge of the Light Brigade," in terms of playing football. Michael, while writing his paper on the poem, reviews his life, and the positive changes and the struggles he has made, sums it up for us. You need to, "Hope for courage, but try for honor."

Movie Data

Genre: Biography, Drama, Sport
Year:  2009
Staring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Jae Head, Lily Collins, Ray McKinnon 
Director: John Lee Hancock
Producer(s):  Yolanda T. Cochran, Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Gil Netter
Writer: John Lee Hancock
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 113 minutes
Release Date: 11/20/2009

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