Rating: 3 out of 5
You don’t have to be a fan of American football to enjoy a film like this.
The Blind Side is a based-on-true-events inspirational sports story – with requisite human drama – that Hollywood has gotten rather adept at doing.
Ever since the 1986 basketball film Hoosiers set a high-water mark for sports movies, where underdogs are the prototypical heroes, there have been such films for sports ranging from baseball (A League of Their Own), to ice hockey (Miracle), to rugby (the current Invictus), to athletics (Without Limits), and to American football (Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall).
There is an inherent flaw or struggle within such movies. Frequently, drama and sport – and fact and fiction – compete for prominence within the film, and getting the balance right is always difficult.
Director John Lee Hancock, who also directed 2002’s feel-good baseball story, The Rookie with Dennis Quaid, does a fine job straddling between his principal character’s sob-story background and his success as a student-athlete.
In particular, the most praiseworthy quality of the film is the way it captures the gentle spirit of Michael Oher, a black, teenaged man-mountain who comes from abject poverty in the bad side of Memphis. Despite the trauma of an absent father and drug-addicted mother, he intrigues with his child-like demeanour and the way he keeps an even keel.
The fact that Oher is swiftly and warmly accepted into the home of a privileged white family, the Tuohys, who show him uncommon generosity and compassion, may lead some to conclude the emotional core of the film is too good to be true, or has been ‘Hollywood-ised’.
No matter. The film works because it takes time for characters to interact, to get comfortable with one another, and for cultural conflicts to arise and be resolved – albeit a tad conveniently.
Decent acting from two of the main cast help anchor the film. Newcomer Quinton Aaron, as the shy, soft-spoken Oher, may appear raw, but he is eminently watchable and likeable.
And the only big-name star here, Sandra Bullock – arguably the most bankable female star today after the film’s massive US box-office haul – is adequate as Leigh Anne Tuohy, her comic flair shining through as her character deals with obstacles (small-minded white friends, gun-toting black gangsters) with sass and wit.
The action scenes on the field are of the high quality expected of all modern-day sports movies, and the film also makes an effort in explaining to non-fans the demands of football, and how Oher’s subsequent entry to the Tuohy’s favourite university (Mississippi) alerted authorities of possible wrongdoing – such is the lucrative nature of college sports in America.
Bear in mind that, for the most part, the film keeps themes simplistic and never lingers in gray territory for long. The triumph of ‘goodness’ in the face of bigotry and cynicism is the central message here, and that message is delivered with calibrated efficiency, if not in a totally compelling way.
While there is little new here, apart from its recent subject matter (Oher finished college in 2008), the film has the ability to move, even if you are wise to its charms, or its tricks, depending on your perspective.
The only thing somewhat troubling here is how things appear, whether the film seems to condescend by holding up a case of charity from a white, Christian family towards a poor black person.
But if this film manages to get anything through to you, it is that appearances of wrongdoing don’t matter, so long as you do what you know is right.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
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