Sports movies are typically niche affairs. I mean, a group of athletes or single athlete triumphs over adversity and achieves greatness in his or her sport, becomes accepted by the team, and earns the respect of their rival thanks to a gutty performance. That description covers every sports film from Rocky to 1940’s Knute Rockne: All American. In a sense, The Blind Side is exactly as I described the stereotypical sports film.
Michael Oher, a troubled youth who never knew his father and whose mother struggled with drug addiction, manages to escape a tragic life on the streets via American football. He goes from a housing project to a private high school, and from there on he goes to be a college star and a first-round draft pick and an instant millionaire. However, The Blind Side is only about Michael in a tertiary sense; the real story of The Blind Side is how a strong-willed woman named Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) defied both the odds and common sense to give a young man a family. While Michael is the movie’s centerpiece, Leigh Anne is the star.
In a lot of ways, The Blind Side is going to do for Sandra Bullock what Erin Brockovich did for Julia Roberts. Both women are very popular leads in romantic comedies, but neither of them are taken very seriously as actresses for most of their careers. Brockovich turned a corner for Julia Roberts. The Blind Side is doing the same for Bullock. She’s getting a lot of well-deserved buzz for her performance in this movie, and she definitely deserves it, as she manages to add texture and subtlety to her role that was kind of surprising. Bullock has always been a likable actress, and she handles the more amusing aspects of Leigh Anne’s character well, but she really captures the essence of what I’d call a steel magnolia; she has a hard exterior and a business-like attitude to cover up the sweet soul within.
The movie also has an excellent supporting cast, with Quinton Aaron as Oher and Jae Head as Sean (SJ) Jr. having particularly nice interplay in their scenes together. Coach Cotton (Ray McKinnon) is a scene-stealer. Characters like Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw) and Collins (Lily Collins) get much less screen time to work with, but there’s no real bad performance in the list.
The script from director John Lee Hancock, based on the book by Michael Lewis, is fairly straightforward. You know where it’s going to go and how the story is going to play out, but not to a fault. It’s cinematic comfort food. The Blind Side is a rare feel-good picture where you actually feel good for most of it, either thanks to the charm of Bullock or the film’s surprisingly funny scenes with the super-confident SJ and the quiet behemoth Big Mike.
The movie itself is a little bit too long, and loses its way slightly in the middle, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Hancock has a nice way of letting scenes unfold without dragging on too long, and he wisely avoids the traps that most movies of this ilk fall into by not letting things get sickeningly sweet. It’s a very warm and pleasant experience, but it never gets too feel-good for its own good.
I didn’t go in expecting much from The Blind Side, despite all the praise. However, what I got was a really incredible performance from Sandra Bullock and a nice, uplifting movie experience. The movie never gets too earnest or preachy, it’s merely a strong woman doing what she feels is the right thing to do, both for her biological children and her adopted one.
US correspondent Ron Hogan believes this is the best performance Sandra Bullock has ever done. For once, she’s not just playing Sandra Bullock. Find more by Ron daily at PopFi and Shaktronics, or at his blog, Subtle Bluntness.