The Blind Side Review: Dropped The Ball
It must be great when someone wants to make a film about your life.
For Michael Oher it probably seemed like the icing on the cake. Plucked from poverty, the 6’ 5”, 300lb, gentle giant got into a good school, was adopted by a rich family, impressed on the football field and ended up playing for the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL.
But that icing must taste a bit off to Big Mike. Because The Blind Side isn’t a film about him at all, it’s all about Sandra Bullock and her bid to win an Oscar.
You can imagine him sitting down to watch an early screening… “Hang on a minute,” he might have thought, “there ain’t much of me in this film. I did some of the hard work too. I’ve barely got a line. And are they trying to make me out as a retard?”
Based on a true story it may be, but surely the reality wasn’t as sickly sweet as this?
Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is accepted at a posh Christian school on his athletic potential, however he is homeless. Luckily for him, he is seen mooching about in the rain by all-American mom Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) who realises that he goes to the same school as her children and she takes him in and he becomes part of the family.
The whole family, including husband Sean (Tim McGraw), back him to get better grades and practice his football and he ends up being an in-demand left-tackle.
Michael himself hardly gets more than a few words over the hour and a half – is he supposed to be a simpleton? It’s all about the Tuohy’s whose hard-work made a nobody an NFL star.
Exploring Michael’s troubled past Leigh Anne visits the projects which Michael once called home, talks down some heavy looking thugs and has a little cry with his prostitute biological mum. That’s that sorted then.
She goes head-to-head with his coach “you need to understand your players” and is disgusted by the racist comments of her ladies-that-lunch girlfriends.
Like most sports films, it’s chock full of clichés. He’s big but rubbish at football? Cue the training montage!
SJ, who provides endless wisecracks laughed at by all the characters (but in real life you’d want to smack), trains him up to be unstoppable. “Just pretend the team is your family” says Leigh Anne. Aww, that’s all it took – look at him go now!
There’s also the working-tirelessly-and-getting-better-grades montage (shocked looking teachers, close-ups of ‘B+’ being written on exam sheet) and the doing rubbish mid-game then turning it all round and destroying his opponent scene (it’s ok, the player was making racist comments).
But sport isn’t the focus. This film is about family. Not real families – wholesome, all-American Disney families.
Hailed as a tale of triumph against adversity what comes across feels less optimistic.
What is the message? Only rich white families can save black youths from a destiny of drugs and guns? That sports stardom is the easy route out of poverty? That without financial backing, natural talent is worthless?