The Blind Side: Review

23 February 2010

Written by: Tom Cowie

There’s a certain time of year when I attend the cinemas on a very frequent basis.

For me this is always the summer period, the season that heralds the year’s Academy Award contenders.

In this time, I see pretty much any film that is a sure fire flick to be nominated for an Academy Award.

In the period leading up to the 2010 Academy Awards, I was offered the opportunity to attend an advance screening of John Lee Hancock’s The Blind Side.

The film is a football family drama about a Southern family who take in a disadvantaged black youth and help him along with the love, support and encouragement that he needs to make it to the NFL.

Now, this is not the usual type of film that I attend. The family friendly feel good ‘you can do anything if you have love’ story does not usually fly on my radar for too long before I wipe it off, let alone a sports film.

However, The Blind Side had a leg up by being nominated for Best Picture Oscar, and by having its star, Sandra Bullock, as the frontrunner to win the Best Actress prize.

So with this in mind, I sped off to see it in its advanced release. And boy did it surprise me.

Set in Memphis, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy (played by Tim McGraw and Bullock) discover Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) walking in the rain one night. His only possession is a dirty shirt in a plastic bag and he has nowhere to stay.

You can pretty much guess what happens from here on in. The usual conflicts and resolutions follow in a very neat order, which is to be expected of a Hollywood produced film with a Hollywood superstar as its leading attraction.

And yet, somehow, I found myself continually smiling and wanting to burst out into applause, for many different reasons.

Most importantly, there is the issue of representation of race. The last year in cinema has seen two different and interesting portrayals of disadvantages black youths.

In Lee Daniel’s Precious, we see a physically and sexually abused overweight 16-year-old girl, who is pregnant with her second baby from her father, and who cannot read.

With the aid of a teacher, she manages to breakthrough and discover above all else, the power of love.

Similarities can be found within The Blind Side in this regard, which A. O. Scott covered in an article he wrote a few months ago in the New York Times.

Scott notes that both films portray the disadvantaged youths as overcoming their obstacles with the help of teachers (in Precious) and a rich Southern white skinned family (in The Blind Side).

The message that seems to be reiterated in the final moments of The Blind Side, is that without this aid, these kids would just be another causality in a poor, disadvantaged, ghetto life.

There have also been critiques, which Scott, amongst others, acknowledges, that see Precious as further perpetuating a negative stereotype.

However, The Blind Side is far more delicate about the issue of race, yet at the same time propels an idea of a fairytale saviour through the guise of a wealthy white family.

After seeing these two films in a period of a week, I would have to strongly disagree that either one perpetuates any negative stereotype regarding race.

While these issues are questioned, both films instead swim in the notion of overcoming adversity through the support of well-wishing and benevolent forces.

To this matter, both of these films are based on true stories, with The Blind Side being explicitly based on the story of Michael Oher, and Precious being based upon an amalgamation of many girls.

Being made for a fairly modest Hollywood budget of $27 million dollars, The Blind Side has received extremely successful critical reception as well as impressive box office takings.

In its opening weekend, it came second only to New Moon raking in $34 million. However, in its second weekend, the film took in $40 million, a large step up, which is rarely heard of.

The Blind Side has also been the first film to make over $200 million whilst having a female name receiving sole top billing over the film.

The film has been Bullock’s most successful box office draw and has drowned her in awards from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the Golden Globes), Critics Choice, Screen Actor’s Guild and from what I predict (although an easy prediction to make) the Academy Awards.

The Blind Side is rounded off with very good performances by Aaron, McGraw, Kathy Bates and Ariane Lenox (who plays Michael’s drug-addicted mother, and who in real life won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Mrs Muller in the Original Broadway production of John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt).

While the film often resorts to cliché, The Blind Side still succeeds in presenting all the necessarily elements of a successful family sports drama.

Great story, great performances, and an ending that leaves you with a great warm feeling.

The Blind Side is released in Australia this Thursday.

James Madden is a graduating Bachelor of Arts student, who majored in cinema and media studies at La Trobe University. He contributes to The Vine and is a co founder of Film Blerg, where this review was originally published.