The Blind Side

Oh could I list the reasons to hate The Blind Side?  First of all it’s cliched – the entire movie is predictable.  Second, it’s patronizing – one of the quaint 1950s sort of tomes of some magical white person rescuing a poor helpless black kid – Diff’rent Strokes on the big screen without the intentional jokes.  Third, it is a vanity project for a scenery chewing performance by Sandra Bullock – where the screenplay gives chances for the empty headed men in the film to look at that spunky broad.  This is the sort of thing that Julia Roberts usually corners the market on.  Fourth, it doesn’t seem like the character of Michael Oher, you know, the dude who came from homelessness to football glory, had any personality traits.  I was left with this film knowing what HE thought about what all these white folks were doing.  Fifth, it’s a sports movie, and most of those aren’t very good.  Sixth, Tim McGraw is the patriarch which reminds me of country music, and well that makes me puke in my mouth.

HOWEVER, with all the schmaltz, and all the patronizing racial values, with the knowledge that this movie is really about Sandra Bullock doing her best Erin Brockovich and telling all these people where to stick their non-belief, John Lee Hancock’s movie works.  My God, it works in the sort of way it was intended, and before I shoot myself, I have to be honest about the fact that the movie is entertaining and that I did root for Michael Oher even if he himself did not give me any reason to.  I have to be honest about the fact that Sandra Bullock’s character’s telling-off thing did get me rooting for her, despite seeing the machinery behind it.  The simplistic black is bad, white is good, rescuing poor Michael from the hood thing – the checking the box of every racial stereotype that gets shattered by the film’s self congratulatory nature – all are features that make this kind of junk.  However, the movie is effective, and I hope I have confessed my sin of taste fully.

I guess the question becomes why can this movie – with its schmaltz and hackneyed ideas work on me while a vehicle like Eat Pray Love goes right to my puke reflex.  I think perhaps that it might have much to do with the protagonists themselves.  Julia Roberts’ Elizabeth Gilbert – as the movie portrays her – does not have a visible crisis of conscience.  Aside from the opportunity to have middle age ladies hearts aflutter, her mission seems rather narcissistic.  On the other hand Leigh Anne Tuhoy, the Sandra Bullock character, is undeniably doing a good thing taking Michael Oher, an allegedly slow kid from the streets of Memphis in.  Whether it’s white guilt, some embedded racism, or the need to do good by her school – she is putting a roof over Michael’s head and clearly cares for him (at least as much as she cares for herself).  How do you not root for her – even in scenes which are fairly thinly veiled Oscar scenes for Bullock?

Another useful trait for the movie are the Tuhoys themselves.  SJ, the youngest, is played by Jae Head, who stays just on this side of being too precious.  His job is to be cute, and he does it decently enough.  The rest of the family is also kind and good folks – so good that one is skeptical whether the real family was as unconflicted as these folks were about taking in a big black guy from the street. – so they are also easily sympathetic.  The movie has no real villains – it tries haphazardly to align the teachers “against” him, but of course the teachers want him to succeed.  We want this mission to succeed – and for Michael to do well.

Now, The Blind Side is not any sort of Oscar contender – even though it was.  It is cliched nonsense, a wind up machine meant to get schmaltz out of its viewers.  However, it does a good job on those fronts.  I have not described the plot because it really is made out of parts from the used screenplay store.  If you couldn’t guess the story arc, you’ve probably never seen a movie.  However the performances and the general nature of Oher’s lifts the film into a definite “Pass” score.

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