Posted by: Dr P | April 1, 2010

The Blind Side

Sandra Bullock made her name in Hollywood in fairly lightweight roles, such as a sideshow to Keanu and Hopper in Speed, and a succession of romantic comedies. However, her career has taken in more weighty material of late and in 2010 she has come up trumps with this Oscar-winning performance in The Blind Side. Having seen Jeff Bridges’ statuette-winning role in Crazy Heart a fortnight back, I thought it was time to compare the two.

Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a wealthy Republican whose husband Sean (Tim McGraw) owns a number of food chains in and around Memphis. The story follows the family’s attempts to help Michael “Big Mike” Oher, a low IQ black kid from a broken home, by getting him enrolled in a Christian school and subsequently bringing him into their family. Such is Oher’s athletic prowess that he not only excels in the school football team, he comes under the attention of almost every big name college. In order to qualify for college, the family enlist a tutor to help Michael reach the necessary grades. Much of the story is based around Michael’s home and personal life, and the developing relationship between the Tuohys and their new “son”.

The film is based on Michael Lewis’ 2006 book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, which described the true story of Oher and the Tuohys. The timing of the film is nigh on perfect, as the book follows Oher’s life right up to successfully achieving a college scholarship. In the intervening years, Michael not only graduates but becomes a first round draft pick for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, an event covered right at the close of the film.

The film throws out almost every moral talking point you can think of – Michael’s drug-riddled mother has a dozen kids, with numerous fathers, his former teenage friends continue to reside on “the wrong side of the tracks” in a drug and crime-fuelled environment, while the shocked reactions of the racist dinner circle Leigh-Anne has surrounded herself with make for stark contrast with the love and support the family offer the boy.

It’s an inspiring movie and one in which the principals shine. Bullock is truly brilliant in her role, particularly given her own publicised moral objections to playing such a staunch Republican. McGraw offers good support as her husband and partner, while newcomer Quinton Aaron is terrific in his portrayal of the titanic Michael. The story is all the more compelling for it being based on a true story – had it been pure fiction it could easily have fallen into the traps of whimsy and cliche – as it is, it’s moving, heartwarming and definitely high on emotion.

Comic relief is provided by Sean Jr, the baby of the family; his interaction with his new big bro and the conversations with the visiting college professors (whether real or exaggerated) are superb moments.

I particularly loved the end credits where photos of the real Oher and Tuohys are shown from times and situations covered during the movie; this just reinforces what a touching and inspiring story it is. Hats off to all, and a richly deserved Oscar for the talented Bullock. Perhaps not as complete or devastating a performance as her male Oscar compatriot, but great nonetheless.

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