Review: The Blind Side

The Blind Side Still 1

Sometimes all it takes to make a movie is a good story with a director and a cast capable of seeing it for what it is. “The Blind Side” is an excellent example of why our interest continues to peak at the tagline “based on a true story” in movie trailers. You get the sense that Warner Bros, John Lee Hancock and star Sandra Bullock understand that the story they’re telling is real, it’s positive and it’s heart-warming.

“The Blind Side” is the story of real-life football player Michael Oher, currently a left guard with the Baltimore Ravens who went from homeless to a first-round NFL pick with them help of the Tuohy family, who took him in and gave him the confidence to succeed at football and life. Although the details of the story have been stretched to make the film more dramatic, the essence of the story and the values it preaches are the same and they’re what count most.

Hancock has taken necessary liberties with the story. To be truthful, there’s not a lot of bad or a lot of conflict and the film might have been too fluffy without exaggerations. The Tuohy’s took Michael, a boy from a bad neighborhood who was enrolled in their school with some convincing from the football coach, and they helped him attain the grades to not only stay eligible in high school but also earn a scholarship to play football in college. Hancock resorts to a lot of dramatic conventions to keep the story engaging and the audience feeling sympathy for Michael but also excited to see him succeed. They all work, even if they’re a bit cheap at times.

The cast, however, really brings it all together. Everyone in this film natural and relatable. No one is written as or behaves like a stereotype or fit a specific mold — at least none of the main characters. They realize they’re playing real people leading normal lives. Only Jae Head as the little brother, S.J., tries hard to create humor where it doesn’t come naturally but he gets away with being cute. The standout example of this is the hiring of all the real-life coaches to act as if they were in their former jobs and recruiting Michael. It seems gimmicky, but it’s fun and it shows the effort to honor the truth of the story.

As for Bullock, I’ve finally seen a film where she has really impressed me. I’m not sure about the Oscar talk, but I can’t say a bad thing about her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy. She creates such definitive portrait of Leigh Anne as tough, loving, selfless and even a bit abrasive. She plays her as sensitive and well-meaning where she could have just gone overboard with southern bell housewife stereotypes (considering we all know she’s done plenty of over-the-top characters), but she realizes this is a real woman she’s playing and gives Leigh Anne the dimension she deserves. Most importantly, she is naturally funny and doesn’t shove humor down our throats like in her ditzy romantic comedy roles.

“The Blind Side” is a likable film, one way more about family and achieving ones goals than it is about football. This is not a cheesy, football-focused sports drama with typical sports themes and dramatizations of football games. Hancock understands the importance here is not football. This does make Bullock’s bookend narration about how former football pro Lawrence Taylor changed the game of football for left tackles a bit irrelevant, but it serves as another reminder of how Michael Oher’s story is real and it’s an interesting and important one.

3.5/5 Stars

The Blind Side
Written and Directed by: John Lee Hancock, based on the book by Michael Lewis
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw