The Blind Side

by | Nov 20th, 2009 | 5:51PM | Filed under: Movies, Theatrical Reviews

Coming to redbox Tuesday, April 20th!

It’s a shameless button-pusher, but pushes them well. The Blind Side throws the weight of its big, powerful heart behind a feel-good story, blocking out most doubts about veracity or racial patronization. The result does feel good–and yes, Sandra Bullock is terrific.

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Of all the horror movies I watch, all the CG and rubber gore I rarely blink at, I felt an inescapable sense of dread at the start of The Blind Side and instinctively moved to cover my eyes. The film opens with Sandra Bullock’s Southern syrup-drenched voice over, but on screen we’re seeing an old NFL film. Look, it’s the Redskins and there’s John Riggins, so it must be from the ‘80s. Yep, there’s Joe Theismann… and it’s a night game… which means a Monday night game… and… oh my god no… they’re playing the Giants… and there’s L.T….

Every football fan over 30 remembers what comes next, and as Bullock’s character explains in her narration, it changed professional football and Michael Oher’s life. Thanks to that oh-god-cover-your-eyes moment live on Monday Night Football–when Joe Theismann’s shin suddenly went 90 degrees the wrong way (a moment that in the days before YouTube was still seen over and over again on television)–the left tackle’s need to protect the quarterback’s blind side became much more important and hence much more valuable and financially lucrative.

And because of that, the real-life Michael Oher, a hulking, surprisingly quick mountain of a man, went from living on the streets at age 16 to avoid daily life in the projects to becoming a first-round draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens last spring. In fact, in one of those nifty little art-and-life serendipities, this past Monday evening I got home from a screening of The Blind Side—the wonderfully moving dramatization of Oher’s story—just in time to catch Oher himself live on TV, helping the Ravens crush the hapless Browns on Monday Night Football.

Blindside6studyingThe Blind Side tells the true tale of young Michael Oher (Quentin Aaron), a looming giant growing up in a solemn, silent self-protective cocoon. Big Mike, as he’s called by others, goes anywhere in the Memphis night to escape his mother’s broken home, but he’s not getting anywhere.

Then Oher is given a couch to sleep on for a night by Leigh Anne Touhy (Bullock), an interior designer, Taco-Bell-franchise socialite, and a bona fide bull-headed, Ol’ Miss-loving, Southern belle. Michael’s night on the expensive Touhy Family couch turns into two, then a week, then a month, as all the Touhys end up helping the behemoth of a boy find his place first in the classroom and only later on the gridiron. (Football is barely mentioned during the film’s first half.)

Based on the book The Blind Side: The Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis, the film is written and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie) with a sure hand for negotiating obvious sports-movie clichés past the dopey. The Blind Side may draw its inspiration from how Oher’s quiet, mammoth gentleness hides deep, protective strength, but its tone comes at you like Lawrence Taylor himself, bearing down with every heavy pound of crushing, inescapable power.

Blindside10bedreadingYes, the film will blind side you. If you’ve seen the commercials and trailer you may have dismissed it as pure sap, and you’d be half-right. Because it is sappy, but it’s also incredibly effective and touching. It’s out to make you cry with joy for those rare cases when human compassion wins out over life’s unrelenting march of pragmatic cynicism.

But when you do cry, you at least feel you’ve been manipulated honestly on the up and up. You may see all the set ups coming, but Hancock makes most of them pay off so powerfully, you’ll forgive the film’s lack of subtlety. “Sure we’re going to hit you hard with 300 pounds of warm, uplifting, heart-felt sports homilies and life lessons,” says The Blind Side, “but don’t worry—we’re going to earn it every step of the way, and in the end you’ll be crying because sometimes people really do the right thing for the right reasons and in doing so change lives.” (Stick around for the credits and photos of the real Oher and Touhys–even more tears get jerked when it sinks in these people actually exist.)

Country singer Tim McGraw is clean-shaven unrecognizable as Leigh Anne’s good-natured, supportive husband, but he and the other actors portraying the family do solid work–including the requisite “cute kid,” Jae Head. Often dismissed as a one-note, journey-woman actress, Bullock is firing on all sassy cylinders here, portraying Leigh Anne Touhy as a bossy, force of nature–harnessed and focused in the service of what she feels is right. Bullock’s Leigh Anne may have moments of doubt about whether she’s acting out of white liberal guilt, and she may slip at first into that quiet, reflexive racism of low expectations as Joe Biden did when he once described Obama as “clean.” But she never lets such human failings stop her from stubbornly pushing forward.

Blindside4aaronbullockThe Blind Side is going to take some hits from critics. Released into theaters alongside Precious, it cannot help but fare poorly in head-to-head combination with that much rawer, more devastating look at how an individual might try to improve him or herself up out of crushing poverty and abuse. And with the film character of Michael presented as often mute and inscrutable, The Blind Side instead tells his story from the box-office safe point of view of Leigh Anne. We end up knowing little about the Inner Michael other than he’s big and kind and a great protector on and off the field. That’s only going to intensify cries of subversive racism: the film can be seen as yet another Hollywood-ized tale of a saintly White Person who rides in to “save” the poor Black child.

All those arguments may be valid and are worth discussing, but The Blind Side throws its considerable weight not at such tricky social issues, but rather on the side of human uplift. When I can sit and watch a film that uses both a way-too-on-the-nose Ferdinand the Bull reference and an extended cameo from Nick Saban and I still come away grinning from ear to ear and bawling my eyes out, then you know you’ve got a movie whose massive, unrelenting heart pushes any flaws out of the way.


10 Responses to “The Blind Side

  1. Rebecca
    Posted on November 20, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    I’m a sucker for these kinds of movies and am looking forward to seeing this.

  2. Vickie Emmons
    Posted on November 21, 2009 at 9:09 am

    I saw the screening of this movie. It was awewsome.If you liked Facing the Giants you will love this one. Vickie

  3. Skye Joubert
    Posted on November 21, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Saw this film last night. Agree partially with what you said and have some comments myself. First the cast was incredible. Every single one of them even down to the lunch group (what a great scene that was – but don’t want to give it away).
    As for your comment about Michaels silence and not seeing from his point of view, I disagree. He was speaking miles to everyone, you just had to stop and listen with your eyes. We don’t always need words to convey our thoughts!
    This was an excellent film and I plan to go see “Precious” today and suspect it will evoke different emotions in me. It has been my experience in my 60 years of life….that no two stories should be compared – each is it’s own tale much as each of us are individual! Similar yes, but unique to the story and the story teller. As someone once said in Hollywood “there are no new stories, just different ways of telling them.”
    I remember a kindergarten game “Telephone”, the word started out as Disneyland and by the time it got around to me I heard Mickey Mouse. I suppose because I had been manipulated into connecting him with the park, but to me Mickey still is Disneyland. Same is true here, my mind took me where my life experiences and perspectives have. Manipulated yes, but no more than a horror movie that evokes a scream.
    This film doesn’t need to be over thought, just thought about. Bulluck deserves an award and so does SJ…that kid is miles above many child actors I have seen over the years. He…totally manipulated me (and I loved every moment of it), as did the FULL theatre I watched this film in. You could tell by the reaction every time this kid opened his mouth.
    Courage and honor ran rampant in this story and not just Michael, Leigh Ann, but the daughter, the teacher, and the husband.
    The scene with Micheal’s mother was one of the best parts of the movie for me. We recognized her character immediately and didn’t have to be bombarded with ugly images to feel her pain, regret and hopelessness.
    I doubt there was anyone who did not recognize the despair, anger, poverty, and hopelessness that was felt/lived on the other side of town from the Tuhley’s. It was very recognizable, we have seen it enough times to know it both on the screen and in our own cities and states. I came away wanting to have more courage of conviction, wanted to somehow give more back, provide more for children – how many times does a movie manipulated you into that kind of feeling? Ten fingers and ten toes up for a GREAT FILM!

  4. moviegoer123
    Posted on November 21, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Sandra Bullock does great in her two movies that came out this year The Proposal and All about Steve, this one should be great because she did awesome in the other two.
    I’ll either wait to see it in the theatre sometime or wait for rent.
    The Blind Side actually looks like a great movie that my family could spend sixty dollars (including popcorn, etc) at the movie theatre and my family has a good feeling on this movie because they mentioned it. I would spend sixty dollars to see it in the movie theatre because I love Sandra Bullock.
    I’ve seen the theatrical trailertrailer many of times and the theatrical trailer got me completely hooked on the movie.
    I’m looking forward of seeing the movie, whenever I get a chance. What a great movie, it seems. Looking forward to seeing it! :)

  5. Locke Peterseim
    Posted on November 21, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Skye, I completely agree that Quinton Aaron did a fantastic job as Michael, and he certainly does do wonderful work with his eyes and face. It’s a terrific performance.
    But in comparison, the film Precious works very hard to show us Precious’s inner life, who she is, what she wants and feels. You’re right, The Blind Side is a very different film, out to do different things, but I do think Hancock and the studio played it a bit safe, choosing to center the film on Leigh Anne Touhy, not Michael Oher. Sure, some of that is simply because Leigh Anne is a MUCH more colorful, outgoing, outwardly catchy character than the big, silent Michael–she definitely makes a bigger “film character.” But some of it is because the studio felt that box-office audiences would be more likely to go see a Sandra Bullock movie about her helping a Black kid than a story that focused more on Michael’s life.
    Obviously from my review, I LOVED The Blind Side, loved it’s unrelenting message of hope and optimism, and strongly encourage everyone to see it. But a part of me also hopes that Precious eventually out-earns it at the box office, just to show studios that audiences WILL also go see tough, hard-hitting films that don’t feature big Hollywood stars or offer purely uplifting victories. I want everyone to see Precious as well–do what Skye is doing: see ‘em both as soon as possible!

  6. Valerie Hughes
    Posted on November 21, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    This is a must see for the entire family. I have a hearts desire to see all teens succeed, especially those that have been dealt a bad hand in life. The Blind Side was so moving for me because when I watched it I knew it was a true story and that’s what made it so impactful. I can relate to Leigh Ann, because I have taken in a teen off the streets myself. After seeing this movie it just inspires me to continue my path of helping others in need. As an assistant probation officer, I work in a couple of schools that have teens that could fit Michael Oher’s profile, and even though I only see them a couple of hours a day, I know that I can be one of many people that can positively influence teens that are at risk. I would recommend you bring your children to this movie, then discuss with your children how they can positively impact those around them. Again a must see!!!!

  7. moviegoer123
    Posted on November 22, 2009 at 11:16 am

    I’ll see this one if it’s that good!!
    I love Sandra Bullock’s acting, she does that good. Ms. Bullock takes pride in her work, she goes above and beyond your expectations when you see a movie. She takes a certain movie and take it a step further from what the director expects.
    The Proposal, Ms. Bullock made the movie even more funnier and added more romance throughout. She made tweaks to the film so you can digest the movie better and once you are done with a certain movie of hers you just go “Wow”.
    All about Steve, Ms. Bullock made the film more adventurous and funnier, she did the romance above and beyond what you are actually expecting out of that movie. In the sad moments of the film, she made them funny but carried the sad moment very well.
    I loved her two movie All about Steve and The Proposal, so I’m hoping to see this one The Blind Side. Sandra Bullock absoutely what you expect out of an actress and she just risks to take a step further for a certain film, she absolutely does great on that.
    I’m planning to see this movie The Blind Side, (maybe) in the movie theatre and paying the sixty dollars (including popcorn, soda, etc) to see it and rent at the Redbox to pay dollar and five-cents and (maybe) additional night rental. I really do want to see this movie, I want to see this movie because the trailer looked really good and Sandra Bullock is in it.
    When will this film be available at the Redbox kiosk?
    When will this be available on DVD?
    I’m looking forward to see it when I rent it or (maybe)see it in the movie theatre! :)

  8. nike5246
    Posted on November 25, 2009 at 9:13 am

    I saw this movie last week, the opening week. I could not wait to see it based on the trailers. I knew it was going to be a tear jerker and more of a chick flick. Big time poor thinking. It was a tear jerker at the beginning but for me, it was more motivstion and full of humor and hope. I wanted to give back to the less fortunate even more than I do now.
    The whole cast for me gave off a warm feeling and full of love in their soul(s), type of feeling. It was way better than my expectations. I loved it!!!!

  9. moviegoer123
    Posted on November 27, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Just saw it tonight on 11-27-09. I absolutely loved the movie. It’s based on extraordinary true story.
    Sandra Bullock was so cute in the movie and this is the best movie I’ve seen of Ms. Bullock’s.
    Unfortunately, my family was planning go to the showtime of 3:55PM and it was sold out, luckily we went to the next showtime which was 4:40PM and we went to that showtime. You’ve seen how packed the theatre was for this one at the theatre that we went to. After that showtime, there was another which was 7:25PM, there was a whole line that went up to the door for The Blind Side! It was packed.
    I loved this movie. Redbox should get it because it’s a great story.
    There are lessons throughout the movie which I’m not telling, you just have to find out for yourself. The most important lesson throughout the film The Blind Side is: Protect your blind side. It had a message, a very important message.
    There were sad moments throughout the film which I kind of cried and there was happy moments throughout which was great to see happening. There was a warm feeling and a full amount of love in their souls.
    It was the best two hour movie I’ve seen in a very long time and I’m going to cherish this movie.
    It was worth sixty dollars to go to the theatre, absolutely it was. It worth waiting in the line and seeing the whole movie itself.
    Right away when it comes available on DVD & Blu-ray, my family is going to get the DVD and re-watch it all through our rest of our lives.
    I loved the movie! LOL! :)

  10. PAM W.
    Posted on December 1, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    FINALLY A MOVIE THAT IS WORTH WATCHING… WOW…. THIS IS GREAT!!! NO PROFANITY NO SEXUAL INVITATIONS JUST A PURE FAMILY BASE MOVIE THAT EVERYONE CAN WATCH. AGAIN I SAY WOW…
    SANDRA BULLOCK PLAYED AN OUTSTANDING ROLE IN THIS MOVIE AND I LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING HER GETTING AN ACADEMY AWARD, BECAUSE SHE WAS GREAT IN THIS PERFORMANCE. THIS IS ONE OF HER BEST ROLES…
    TO THE PRODUCERS GREAT JOB!!!!!!
    EVERYONE WHO SEES THIS MOVIE WILL JUST LOVE IT, AND THAT’S A FACT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!