The Blind Side
Details: (PG), 128 mins, In Cinemas 25 February 2010, United States, English
Synopsis: A homeless African-American youngster from a broken home, Oher (Quinton Aaron) is taken in by the Touhys, a well-to-do white family who help him fulfill his potential on and off the football field. At the same time, Oher's presence in the Touhys' lives leads them to some insightful self-discoveries of their own.Living in his new environment, the teen faces a completely different set of challenges to overcome. As a football player and student, Oher works hard and, with the help of his coaches and adopted family, becomes an All-American offensive left tackle.
Blindness won't bridge the racial divide.
It’s an unhappy truism to suggest, with some discomfort that the racial divide in the USA is deep and profound (and things are not so hot here for that matter either). For generations it seems the movies have tried to right this. Some pictures try to make a change using anger as an energy, some attempt to raise a laugh, to shame a prejudice, and some, like The Blind Side, a glib, too-cute drama-comedy use large dollops of sentiment and sweetness.
Directed by John Lee Hancock, who helmed the equally risible The Rookie, it’s based on a true story; the kind that ads once called “inspirational”.
The movies plot suggests a kind of comedy of manners. It’s about how an over-sized Afro-American teenage boy, the child of a mother with a drug problem, gets adopted by a very wealthy Southern white family, to be raised as their own; which is to say, white bread, and God-fearing. In the end he goes to college and becomes a great football player. Everyone’s happy.
Even writing this up it feels squirmy, and embarrassing since it all seems too good to be true. In life the transition must have been fraught no matter how decent and good natured and well meaning everyone was and is. After all we’re talking about identity, family, and race here. Still, this movie tries to convince us there’s no such thing as an impure motive.
The material might be the stuff of a gentle satire, a bit of irony to allow distance and reflection to digest the contradictions and conflicts. But the tone here is sit-com broad and Disney cute.
Which makes Sandra Bullock a perfect fit. She plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a hi-watt wife of a take-out king, an interior designer on the hustle who does lunch with her racist gal-pals, who goad her about her do-gooding nature. It’s Leigh Anne who sees the sad beauty (as the movie would have it) in Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron); an over-sized adolescent who has a highly developed intuition to protect the weak and helpless. When her little boy Sean (an annoying o-so-cute performance that’s absolutely no fault of the young actor) befriends Oher, Leigh Anne takes an interest. Is it, as some critics have suggested, a classic missionary position (she decides to ‘do-good’ so she can feel good about herself)? Sure, the film raises this, only to dismiss it, because like all ‘good’ movie mothers she loves Oher without qualification. Bullock charges through her scenes in a manic dance of Southern fried “sass” tossing off half-funny one-liners and acting so big it’s impossible to notice anyone else. And that’s what the movie is really about; white folks who dare to cross the colour line – in a very deep sense what’s missing is Michael’s internal story.
It’s all very innocent and simple minded in a G-rated kind of way. It seems churlish to want more or ask for a bit of grunt. Still, its sensibility is insidious.
The movies true dark heart is revealed near the end when Oher returns to the ghetto; all his black pals are out of their minds or on the make and ready to get into trouble. It’s like the African Americans in the movie aren’t given the same dignity as the Tuohy’s; they’re simply reflections of white clichés about Black ‘types’. How decent and well-meaning is that? Movies aren’t supposed to ‘solve’ big problems, like race. But it all seems like a maudlin fantasy that supports upper middle class values at the expense of a culture that would rather forget was out there at all.
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