‘Blind Side’ debuted on November 20th the same date as ‘The Twilight Saga: New Moon’. As ‘New Moon’ has drifted down the popularity list, ‘Blind Side’ remains, if you pardon the pun, still in the game. I saw the ‘20/20’ episode dealing with Michael Oher and the Tuohy family which was after I saw them interviewed a few weeks ago on ‘Oprah’ and they came off as legit and what I mean by that is that they didn’t strike me as some Drummond want to be family that were looking for a Willis or Arnold to complete them.
The film is based on ‘The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game’ by Michael Lewis. The first half of the book is devoted to offensive football strategy and the evolution of the importance of the left tackle. The second half of the book is devoted to Michael Oher and is the basis of the movie. I have seen this movie twice, once when it was first released and then over New Year’s Eve with family (who lives a no holds barred exciting life? Moi). Because my first impression of the film was, and I quote from the notes I made on it dated November 22nd, “I think this should be declared a Sarah Palin approved movie. Conservatives that like to think of themselves as nonracist will be all over this film. I can’t say I didn’t like it, I will say that I liked the story about people from different cultures relating to each other, but I did find it a bit off putting that most of the villains in the movie appeared to be black – especially at the end when there are issues about his recruitment to Old Miss.”
The second time I watched this film I had my eyes peeled for anything that I missed that could further my case pro or con about this film. With all this being said I have come to the conclusion that we, Americans that is, are in a transitional period when it comes to race relations thus stories such as Oher’s can have the taint of implied racism even if the story is just what it is…a story about a kid adopted by some rich folks who went on to fulfill the promise of an athletic career – kind of like Freud’s, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Listen, many of us can remember when established sitcoms, such as ‘Happy Days’ had some episode where a black family moves into the neighborhood and suffers the cold community shoulder to only then have Mr. Cunningham, Richie, and the Fonz remedy the situation by inviting said family to their home and then making a speech about how prejudice is wrong. After the episode the audience never hears from the black family again. This then morphed into every white family adopting small black boys who had catch phrases and did great comedic double takes (all because they were midgets in reality who were fifteen years older than the characters they portrayed). This trend then gave way to ‘The Cosby Show’, which served to point out that yes, there were middleclass African Americans in America and they wear hideous sweaters. Then came Oprah and now we have a black (half) president. With the Oher tale on one hand, we have a story about a teen who wanted a better life and the family he found that loved him…on the other hand we have a tale about a white family, particularly the mother, who saves a black teen.
I’m not black but I am a woman and I despised the movie ‘Taken’ because all of the female characters were liars and weak and when they needed the strong father figure he stepped in and saved them from the peril they almost brought down on themselves. I imagine that if I was African-American I would not fancy films that predictably had a white character save a black character either from themselves, their community, and usually a combination of both. Of course then you have to go into the nitty-gritty aspects of the ‘The Blind Side’ story which was that one individual, though talented, needing help and found people who were not only willing to help, but to love him as well. Thus, a community may not be served well by such a story, but an individual was.
Because we are still in a bubble or racism, I think that there were a few things that John Lee Hancock (director and screenwriter for the film) could have done that would have made the movie more palatable to some members of the audience without losing the story’s impact. For instance, Oher starts to attend the private school that the Tuoghys had their children by way of a father, Mr. Hamilton (played by Omar J. Dorsey) who wants his son to attend the Christian school. Oher has been sleeping on the Hamilton sofa coach until, presumably, Mrs. Hamilton can be heard wanting Oher out of her home. If there was some transitional scene where Mr. Hamilton talks to Oher it might have made a difference. Further, it is here that the Hollywood version differed significantly from the version presented on ‘20/20’. Families from the school stepped in to provide Oher with places to stay and one of the families were the Tuohys. Granted it makes a better story to have Sandra Bullock as Mrs. Tuohy (a role that she was born to play – she even looks good as a blonde) to Southern Mama bully Oher into getting into the family car when he was walking in the rain toward the gym, but that wasn’t the case.
What Oher seemed most perturbed about in the cinematic version of his life, was that in the movie he is taught how to play football. He was adamant in the interview, ‘20/20’, with Deborah Roberts, that he knew how to play football before attending the private school and to suggest otherwise appeared to insult him. Of course, if he already knew how to play football it does make the scene at the climax of the film, where he is being interrogated by some NCAA witch (who is black) about the possibility of white families adopting or sponsoring athletically promising, but poor, youths and then funneling them to the alma mater seem possible. In the movie this accusation seems laughable in that there was no guarantee that Oher could even play football, get his grades up, let alone win a scholarship to any institution of higher learning. The mere fact that the Tuohys in the movie had hired a tutor and put Oher on their health insurance spoke volumes about how they cared for this kid and weren’t expecting any payback, but then again, that was the Hollywood version.
With all of that being said, the person who saves this film from being mush is Sandra Bullock. This is a new role for her, mother of teens, as opposed to the endless lovelorn characters she has played in the past. 2009 was a big year for her with this film along with ‘The Proposal’. She was also voted as top money earner of the year by theater chain executives, this despite ‘All About Steve’. She really captures that element that make the Mrs. Tuohys of the world the trifecta of southern womanhood – beauty, warm heartedness, and the ability to strike fear in the hearts of men who oppose them.
Surprisingly, the perfect fodder for Bullock is her on screen husband played by Tim McGraw who aptly plays his role with a subtle comedic timing that one wouldn’t have guessed came from a man who is a country singer with sporadic acting experience. To be fair, he played the brother of Vince Vaughn’s character in ‘Four Christmases’ and was actually one of the few highlights in an otherwise disappointing film. Quinton Aaron also does an admirable job as Oher. Jae Head who plays S.J. Tuohy is delightful with his gap like kid smile.
I the end I would recommend this movie. It is nice to see Bullock in a meatier role and overall the movie was fun in a Cinderella sort of way. I think it would play just as well on DVD or cable.