Sunday, 4 April 2010

The Blind Side (2010)



Plot Summary: The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.

Anyone that regularly reads this blog will probably be aware that I’m not a huge fan of feel good movies. Neither am I particularly interested in sports, or sport movies. Then why did I choose to review The Blind Side, a feel good movie about American football? The truth is I love a feel good film as much as the next person; I just hate the extremely cheesy and formulaic ones. As for sport films, as long as the sport in question doesn’t completely dominate the narrative then I’m fine with it. For example I love films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Raging Bull, Amélie and The Wrestler. The Blind Side, directed by John Lee Hancock, was a massive success in the US and Sandra Bullock even managed to bag an Oscar for best actress from it so I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, after having seen the film, almost all my suspicions about the film were proven right; it’s a boring, sugar coated and thoroughly predicable cinematic affair.

However, The Blind Side is by no means a terrible film and it’d be an unfair statement to suggest so. The acting is good, if not quite Oscar worthy, throughout. Sandra Bullock (playing Leigh Anne Tuohy) does a really good job at portraying a headstrong, wealthy Southern woman who has managed to find a healthy balance between work and family. Likewise Quinton Aaron delivers a solid performance as the introverted and troubled Michael and Tim McGraw (playing Leigh’s husband) plays his part with truth and honesty. The aforementioned balance between sport and drama is also handled really well.

The perfect amount of screen time is spent watching the football training and matches while the majority of the film focuses on the main characters’ lives. The story itself, which is based on true events, is also rather uplifting and positive; we want to see Michael succeed and when he does it’s undeniably satisfying. The look of the film may be rather bland but The Blind Side has clearly been shot by people who know what they’re doing and there a couple of standout moments to relish (the opening scene which utilises still images is well put together and later a muted, slow motion calm-before-the-storm moment is also quite effective).

This is all and well but The Blind Side is ultimately let-down by its refusal to challenge the audience; it’s altogether far too safe. For a film dealing with such heavy issues (homeless teenagers, drug addicted parents etc.) it shies away from the heavy stuff far too much. Instead it’s content to spend most of the film showing how great Michael’s new white, wealthy life is and lacks the courage of its convictions. There are flashbacks to Michael’s unsettling past but they’re extremely short and rare and whenever he or Leigh visits his old neighbourhood it’s portrayed with a lack of menace typical of a Disney movie. There’s also a severe lack of dramatic threat or tension within the film. There a couple of difficulties for characters to face, Michael’s past life and a law suit suggesting that Leigh’s family have groomed Michael to join a particular college, but they never really pose any real danger as they’re dealt with easily and soon resolved.

The film is also rather cheesy and predictable. Michael of course goes from strength to strength throughout the film and achieves everything he sets out to do, no matter how difficult or unlikely these ambitions may be. We’re treated to training montages, over-the-top displays of family affection and the triumph against all odds conclusion; there’s no narrative surprises in store for audiences whatsoever and it’s all been done countless times before. The Blind Side is also extremely formulaic in how it’s shot and presented, there are almost no interesting visual choices made whatever. The two tackiest moments in the film have to be when the family pose for a Christmas card and when Michael takes a picture of himself for a driver’s license; they both magically transform into the actual photos, while exhibiting the amount of finesse you’d expect from a children’s program.

Additionally, Sandra Bullock’s character Leigh is annoying perfect (not to mention her son, SJ, who is just plain annoying). She’s so confident, so controlling, that you want to see her slip up at least once and hopefully learn from it. Aside from a brief moment of reflection following the law suit she never does and it’s rather infuriating. However, this is not what the majority of people care about. Most people just want to be entertained and leave the cinema in a good mood. The Blind Side will most likely provide this experience for many but it’s not a film for anyone who has a low tolerance for sentimentality and is looking for originality, depth or realism.

Final Verdict: 5/10

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