Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Movie Mini Review: The Blind Side

Title: The Blind Side

Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron

Plot Summary: An affluent white Southern family adopts an athletically gifted homeless black teen. They provide a bed, home, food and educational assistance that eventually allows the teen to pursue a football career.

My Thoughts: The Blind Side is based on Michael Lewis' book (same name) about physically gifted but socially disadvantaged teen Michael Oher.

The story is fairly well known by now, and the movie is directed as the quintessential holiday feel-good hit. It wastes no time charging the emotions with a sad soundtrack to match the tragic life circumstance of the principal character, Oher.

I have some pretty mixed feelings about the film, and it could be that I'm just over thinking it.

It does deliver on the tugging-at-the-heartstrings mission of the typical holiday hit. Pretty much all of the ladies in the theater were tearing up within 20 minutes of the start of the movie. By the time Michael Oher admitted that "I've never had a bed before" there wasn't a dry female eye in the house.

But there was something about how the film was executed that just made me felt a little uneasy. It's a good story, don't get me wrong. But I don't know if it was the directing or the editing or what, but it just came across to me a bit exploitative.

One problem is that the story is rife with stereotypes. From the affluent southern bigot to the redneck southern bigot to the black gangster thug to the poor ghetto junkie mother, there was no real character development even in the primary characters.

The other problem I had was what I perceived to be a not-so-subtle mixture of white guilt and White Man's Burden. The implication was that these white folk could save the black folk. It was a simplistic portrayal of race relations, where there was an opportunity to take a serious and sincere look at social issues that still exists.

Finally, Sandra Bullock's portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy really was tragic. I guess it could have been the director's fault, but Bullock managed to take what should have been one of the most sympathetic characters -- the woman who took a black kid from the projects into her home, fed him, clothed him and championed his education -- and make her an unlikable shrew.

Bullock's interpretation of Tuohy was that of an uptight, bossy, entitled harpy. Really, I remarked to my Supermodel Wife at about the 30-minute mark that "That woman hasn't smiled once yet." A few minutes later, she managed to squeeze out the ghost of a grin, but made it look painful, like it was about to break her face.

It was really almost enough to make me racist in reverse.

The rest of the cast did an okay job. Tim McGraw played an Everybody Loves Raymond househusband and Jae Head channeled Macaulay Culkin circa 1990 as the youngest sibling. Kathy Bates... was in the movie.

The best acting job probably goes to Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher, though the sparse dialogue and understatedness of the character made it easy for him.

I hate to get too down on the movie. Like I said, a lot of people really liked it and it is a good story -- maybe even inspiring if you don't think too much about it. I would recommend the book over the movie, though.

Final Rating: Two out of five stars.

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  1. I have not seen the film and only just heard of it last week. However I am prepared to declare that you are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT on every one of these things, based only on a shaky grasp of the plot and a truly cheesy trailer.

    And also based on a 8 decades of Hollywood moviemaking.

  2. Thanks for the review. I tend to avoid those films which deliberately try to manipulate me emotionally, and this sounds like one of those.


  3. I don't mind a movie being emotionally compelling, in fact I expect it. That's what real art is.

    But you're right. There's a difference between emotionally compelling and emotionally exploitative.

    On the other hand, I can't really "blame" Hollywood. American History X was much better, far more compelling and a more serious look at race relations. But it would never attract the kind of mass audience as The Blind Side.

  4. I am glad I skipped this post until I actually saw the film and I have several thoughts.

    First, I think you suffer from not being able to take Hollywood for what it is, entertainment. It was an entertaining film and the only problem I saw was that pace was at time kind of all over the place. We never got a true sense of how much time was passing, days months, years... etc.

    Now about stereotypes and race relationships... I don't think the film is about it and only skirts the issue, it does not try to make a statement but just makes it feel present. I almost venture to say that what it did try to say is that there are white people out there that can see beyond the color and call someone their kid.

    Sandra Bullock did an ok job, but I did not judge her too harshly, I don't know the real person that she was portraying and for all we know she was dead on. I did not see her as not likeable, I saw her as someone that knew her place and used it to get what she wanted.

    The other characters, specially the black people were very accurate from my experience. That is how thugs and their underlings act... that is how they live... I don't think it was lack of character development, I just think as a society we are not ready to face that even though we know not all black people are that which movies portray, there are many that do live in those kinds of circumstances.

    I give it one more star than you.


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