Sunday 12 September 2010

Movie Review: The Blind Side (2009)

A real-life rags to riches story, The Blind Side is a heart-warming feel-good movie about how far a life can be improved with a gentle helping hand. It's a drama tailor-made for the Hollywood treatment, and the film benefits from a terrific Sandra Bullock performance.

Michael "Big Mike" Oher (Quinton Aaron), a 17 year-old giant of a man-in-the-making, comes from a broken home mired in poverty. His addicted mother has abandoned him to a succession of foster homes, and his life is drifting into nothingness. Unexpectedly admitted to a Christian school based on yet undeveloped athletic potential, Big Mike's fortunes are turned around when he is first unofficially and then formally adopted by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock), mother, wife, and interior designer from the upper crust of Memphis society.

With Leigh Anne's guidance, Big Mike improves his academic performance and develops into a towering, dominant football player for his school. Offered numerous college scholarships, he has to choose between his home state of Tennessee or Mississippi, the alma mater of the Tuohys.

The Blind Side is powered almost single-handedly by Sandra Bullock, delivering a tour-de-force performance as Leigh Anne, and deservedly winning the Best Actress Academy Award. Once she welcomes Big Mike into her life, Leigh Anne dominates all events surrounding him, and Bullock similarly towers over the movie. She is nurturing and sympathetic for the most part, but tough as nails and overwhelmingly protective when needed. If Leigh Anne is written as an almost unrealistically perfect Texas family matron, she is at least a terrific role model in a world that desperately needs them.

Compared to Bullock, the rest of the performances fade away into unmemorable vanilla blandness. This unfortunately includes Aaron as Big Mike, whose main attribute is his presence as a gentle giant, but who is asked to do relatively little in terms of acting. The rest of Leigh Anne's family members are, for the most part, very much part of the furniture.

At 129 minutes, the film does drag on. A good 10 to 15 minutes could have been trimmed with no great loss in the narrative. But director John Lee Hancock does recognize that his film's core is occupied by his lead actress, and he directs around her without attempting to compete with her source of energy. When your star is on fire, its wise to dim the other lights.

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