Tom Siggins takes another look at The Blind Side which Dazz Camponi had reviewed previously.
Director: John Lee Hancock.
Writer: John Lee Hancock and Michael Lewis.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron and Tim McGraw.
From almost the very kick-off The Blind Side (based on a true story) had me suspecting the next two hours of viewing were gonna get pretty damn emotional. They did, because central character, Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), had clearly had a pretty rotten life growing up in the ghetto with a crack whore for a mother and an absent father and it's not too long before we see Michael completely abandoned and left out in the cold... well that is until he’s taken into the warmth by an all-American wealthy white family, in which Leigh Anne Touhy (Bullock) plays matriarch.
As the film develops the lumbering leading figure, Michael Oher, begins to play American football and there's a real feast of sentiment looking to pull on the heart strings.
I’d have to admit I for one was enjoying the sentiment and even the schmaltz in the beginning half. I was happy to ignore how annoying the family, the Tuohys, are because their hearts are seemingly in the right place and I could ignore how especially annoying the mother and precocious kid come across (the kid who I assume is meant to be endearing in a Home Alone / Jerry Maguire kind of way) because it was all kind of light hearted and it didn’t warrant paying too much mind or scrutiny. I mean I was ignoring some of the grating elements and instead just enjoying the tender tug on the heart strings because you’d have to be made of damn ice not to feel all warm and fuzzy during certain parts of this film.
The only trouble is it’s not too long into the light sentimental drama before the political undertones begin to creep to the surface and when they do it’s all about as subtle as a blind-sided, Lawrence Taylor tackle. The fact is I was enjoying the pleasant enough drama/light comedy when I suddenly found myself caught in some sort of political Republican propaganda.
There’s the pushy sports mom, Leigh Anne Touhy, who increasingly throughout the film comes across as a Sarah Palin clone and even from this side of the pond I could see the obvious (intentional or not) comparison. After all there’s the scene when the plucky loquacious sports mom goes to the Hurt Village (the black ghetto) and faces down the drug-addled gang. She warns them off from interfering in Michael’s life –
"I'm in a prayer group with the D.A., I'm a member of the NRA and I'm always packing."
Then there’s Kathy Bate's character, Miss Sue, playing Michael's private tutor. During a one-on-one scene she reveals to the deeply Republican, Leigh Anne Touhy that's she's a.... wait for it... Democrat. It’s a deeply contrived line that’s crow barred in and beyond the pale. In fact it was the very moment I decided I disliked this film. Simply put there’s no need for it and when Kathy Bates/Miss Sue later calls Sandra Bullock’s character - “Momma” - despite the fact she’s twenty or so years her junior I threw a pig skin inflated spheroid at the damn TV.
Anyway, with that said there still are some genuine moments that really do expertly pull on the heart strings and there are some nice lines in this film, so toward the end I was in real turmoil wondering whether to actually forgive the previous transgressions and again like The Blind Side. Unfortunately though it came full circle and the narrative returned to the opening scene where a young suited black woman is talking to Michael. She asks the questions that have possibly been going through all our minds – namely are these well-to-do loaded Christians (who pay $10,000 for a couch and own 85 Taco Bells) simply helping the young lad Michael because they’ve recognised his talent and his likely ability to earn them even more millions in the future? It’s a valid question, but in raising it, well it all becomes far too self-conscious and didactic.
The mom soon asks the dad...
“Am I a good person?”
It cemented my opinion that this is a film with definite flaws and almost forced me to turn the damn TV off because maybe she is a good person and maybe she isn’t and I’m casting no verdict on that, but I am saying that the asking of the question is too much. It’s all too self- indulgent and self-congratulatory and I was left both cringing and wondering what the point and moral of this based-on-a-true-life-story actually is?
Is it that all our lives are enriched by helping one another?
Or is it that possessing a multi-million dollar talent can get you out of the ghetto and also get you help from the self-confessed and congratulating good rich people... oh, but wait because there's a slight caveat... if you don’t have that huge talent you may instead simply find yourself working in one of their Taco Bells?
Ultimately, The Blind Side falls short of the N-Zone because it’s just too confused and schizophrenic in its message of whether it’s a light-hearted comedy drama or an actual attempt to make some deeper socio-economic point. Of course with that said I can see why people fall for this film - Sandra Bullock (who won the oscar for best-actress 2009) does perform well and she’s very convincing as an annoying pushy Republican and so despite its faults it’s well worth a watch and especially so if unlike me you can easily ignore the politics of it all or if you are actually an annoying pushy Republican mom.
Review by Tom Siggins.
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