Thursday, December 10, 2009
The Blind Side *1/2
Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Sandra Bullock
Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Lily Collins, Jae Head
Ray McKinnon, Kathy Bates
The phrase "based on a true story" becomes a warning in this movie.
A warning that the events we are about to see are pimped versions of a person's life, tampered with so that Hollywood will continue its crusade for establishing middlebrow conservative values as the status quo.
It grabs the story of NFL player Michael Oher (Aaron) and deforms it to turn it into an "old fashioned" account of how good sportsmanship, strong family ties and money can help overcome any adversity.
Born and raised in the projects of his hometown in Tennesse, Oher is a big, silent teenager who is accepted in a Christian school (after the coach, played by McKinnon, sees his potential and manipulates the board by suggesting taking him in is the Christian thing to do).
But Michael feels out of place in a school where he's the only poor, black, taller than the average student, he even writes an essay about it, proving to his teachers that he can write and read.
Things change for him when he's taken in by the Tuohys a good, wealthy family who feeds him, clothes him and teaches him about football.
Mom Leigh Anne (Bullock) is the family, and the film's, center, her husband Sean (a charming McGraw) is there for moral support and their kids Collins and S.J. (Collins and Head) serve for comic relief mostly.
The thing with "The Blind Side" is that as it indulges in its own sense of morality and joy, it works like a 1940s movie minus the age factor.
This is no longer the day and age where Bing Crosby could get away with singing a song and fixing divorces, alcoholics and evil landlords. Try as it may, the movie's "all American goodness" is in fact racism hidden under Bullock's perkiness.
It has to be said that her performance is a surprise because the actress has rarely shown this maternal, Earthy side.
But her charm and star power aren't enough to justify the fact that this woman had the nerve to star in a movie that has the guts to say that even an eight year old kid can do better reasoning than an eighteen year old black man. Of course they use it as comic relief and Head is a charmer, in the right doses.
But as the white characters fend accusations of "white guilt", this is in fact precisely where the movie falls.
Oher is compared to "King Kong" and the screenplay tries to fix this by making reference to the Jessica Lange version, to prove that these people are too ignorant for the original.
And even when sassy tutor Ms. Sue (Bates) compares Oher to a Charles Dickens character, the intended uplifting plays out like disdainful condescension.
Oher is reduced to the role of the "magical negro" and the worst part is that the movie is so blind that it thinks it's actually doing good to him.