The Blind Side


Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Written by:John Lee Hancock
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Jae Head, Lily Collins, Kathy Bates
Released: February 25, 2010
Grade: A- (Matt), B+ (Sam)

I've got something a little different this week.  It's important that the Film Pie maintains its freshness.  No one likes stale pie.

Sam Dagan is a good friend of mine who recently moved to London.  We've been seeing movies (and regularly arguing about them) since 2001.  Sam's been keen to break my monopoly of reviews on the Film Pie website and I've finally relented.  Given that I'm seldom impartial when it comes to Sandra Bullock movies, Sam offered to write a review for The Blind Side (which he saw a few weeks ago).  We've both given it a thumbs up but Sam has a few more criticisms (valid too I must admit) than me.  

There are currently 1,093 full length reviews available to read on my website.  History has been made with review number 1,094.  Here then, are the opinions of someone other myself...

Matt and Sam in Venice in 2004.

Sam's Thoughts 

The Blind Side is based upon the touching true story of All-American football star Michael Oher.  As an over sized teenager, Michael Oher (Aaron), is essentially homeless until he is spotted on the street by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock) and after a moment's hesitation Mike is invited out of the cold into the Tuohy home for the night. One night's kindness, turns into the tale of something more as Mike becomes part of the Tuohy family despite the differences in their backgrounds.

Mike grew up on the wrong side of town, his mother was a crack addict, and he missed out on basic childhood experiences such as his mother reading to him and having his own bedroom. Luckily for Mike, a friend's father introduces him to the football coach of a local Christian high school who sees his sporting ability, so naturally the coach's Christian duty is to get Mike a private education. It is from here that one night on Mike's way to sneaking a warm night's sleep in the high school gym he meets the Tuohy family, and is taken in by them.

Living in his new environment, Mike faces a completely different set of challenges to overcome the Tuohy family helps Michael fulfil his potential, both on and off the football field.

Bullock's performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy is good - her career best. It seems Bullock decided whilst in Hollywood she'd give acting a shot. Bullock's performance would certainly win an award for most improved, but I don't think it deserves an Oscar, maybe just smiley face stamp or two.

For the story alone I recommend you go see it, I will now however turn my criticism to the story tellers. Big Mike's story is told with an unnecessary emphasis on the fact he is black rather than that he was poor/homeless/from a broken home, and I found this detracts from the story. A few examples that won't spoil the film:

1. Mike starts off at his new school depicted as the only non-Caucasian there, like a "a fly in the milk" as Mrs Tuohy puts it - what happened to Mike's black friend, Steve, that enrolled at the school with him, did he drown in the milk?

2. Mrs Tuohy approaches some 'gangstas' from Mike's old neighbourhood who stereotypically threatened to bust a cap in Mike's ass, thankfully Mrs Tuohy is white and points out that she's a member of the NRA. I was expecting someone to walk out with a pillow slip over their head so we knew they were whitey, but I'll have to wait for the director’s cut.

Regardless of historical accuracy, there was no need to over emphasise the fact that Mike was Black, unless there's a dodgy projector in the cinema, the audience will work this one out for themselves. It would have been great to see the tale of Mike coming from such a tough beginning and triumphing over it, however all I saw was a black person obtaining success, which I don't see as being so remarkable.

Mike's story is remarkable, however the film makers fail to capture the heartfelt and triumph that I would have expected this story to allow. In comparison to other films in the football/rags-to-riches genre, it would be fair to say that it doesn't have nearly as much heart as Rudy, or as much triumph over adversity as say Slumdog Millionaire.

Mike's true story is touching, so you certainly should see this film, even if it's just to prove to yourself that Bullock can act. I will leave you with the question of: what was the message of this film? That you should always do the good Christian thing, or that it's quite rewarding to take a punt on a black kid if they're good at sport? I'll let you be the judge of that.

Matt's Thoughts 

“And the Oscar goes to Sandra Bullock.”  It’s these words which I’m expecting to hear just after lunch on March 8, 2010.  Who’d have thought it?  After years of making bad movies (and yes, there were some absolute stinkers), Ms Bullock will have a coveted gold statue to place on her mantle piece.

I admit that there’s still a slim chance that she won’t win.  Upsets have been known to happen.  My personal preference would be to see Carey Mulligan take the best actress prize.  Her performance in An Education was easily the year’s finest.  However, I admit that Bullock is really good with her sweet Southern accent and her endearing, take-no-nonsense attitude.  It’s comfortably her best work.

The character she plays is Leigh Anne Tuohy, a happily married mother with a teenager daughter named Collins (Collins) and a young son nicknamed S.J. (Head).  Her husband (McGraw) owns a bunch of a fast-food restaurants and the family lives in a lavish mansion in Memphis, Tennessee.

Driving home on a rainy night, Leigh Anne sees a large black guy by the side of the road.  She recognises him from her children’s school and stops to see if he needs help.  He’s known by most as “Big Mike” and he admits that he doesn’t have anywhere to live.  He was walking to the school’s gym to find shelter for the night.  Leigh Anne takes control of the situation and offers Michael a place on her couch.

What begins as an overnight stay will develop into something more permanent.  The “Good Samaritan” in Leigh Anne wants to help this kid out.  He’s shy and struggles at school but she sees his potential, his desire to forge a better life for himself.  Leigh Anne organises a private tutor for Michael and gets him involved with the football team.

There are a few people who question Leigh Anne’s actions.   They can’t understand why a wealthy woman would suddenly welcome this stranger into her home.  The colour of his skin also raises a few eyebrows.  Luckily, Leigh Anne doesn’t care what others think.  She’s a determined, passionate woman who loves to get her way.

This is probably what I liked most about the film – its positivity.  It doesn’t get bogged down in brooding melodrama.  Maybe it was Bullock’s enthusiasm that rubbed off on me.  Instead of focusing on Michael’s troubled past, it looks forward at his exciting future.  What’s really nice is seeing photos and video clips of the real Michael and Leigh Anne during the closing credits.  They make you realise that this really did happen.

I’ve already touched on Bullock’s wonderful performance.  She’s admitted on the awards circuit that she’s made a lot of rubbish throughout her career.  Hopefully we’ll see more of this new and improved Bullock (now with 90% less fat) in the near future.  I’d also like to praise the cute performance from 11-year-old Jae Head who plays Leigh Anne’s son.  He has some great one-liners.

No matter how bad life gets there’s always hope for something better.  This is a message I took away from two best picture nominees this year – The Blind Side and Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire.  Whilst Blind Side is more commercial and less confronting, it’s still a strong film.  All I know is that I that I left the cinema feeling much better than when I walked in.