Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

The Blind Side - Simply Magnificent


Review by Patrick Hodges

Sports movies are nothing new; they’ve been making them for decades.  It is a genre that endures because the themes are timeless; many people love sports, most people love underdog stories, and almost all films that involve both of these elements are based on true events.  But in the last several years, the film industry has been virtually saturated with uplifting dramas featuring practically every sport.  For the sport of football, we’ve been treated to films like Gridiron Gang, Invincible, We are Marshall and The Express.

The main knock on sports movies is that they are invariably predictable; an individual or team comes out of nowhere (or from extremely humble surroundings) overcomes numerous challenges and tribulations and achieves a tremendous victory, warming the hearts of all who witness the story.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but one could argue that most sports movies follow a simple pattern, a pattern so predictable that it might even be called cliché.

While most sports dramas, including the ones I just mentioned, are enjoyable even though they are clichéd, The Blind Side proves that a level of excellence can indeed be achieved despite its apparent predictability.  I say “apparent” because even though the film’s outcome is predictable, the journey from beginning to end is so damn enjoyable, featuring such stellar acting, humor and pathos that we don’t even care.

Sandra Bullock plays Leigh Anne Touhy, a well-to-do woman living in Memphis who lets a wayward African-American youth named Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) in her home.  Her husband (Tim McGraw) and kids are bemused by her decision, but offer no objection – Leigh Anne is obviously not someone to be trifled with.  Eventually, after some motherly nurturing and a stable environment, she encourages Michael to take up football, to which he shows a remarkable aptitude.

The plot is pretty straightforward from there, so I’ll waste no more time on it.  I will therefore devote some space to the absolutely outstanding (and, I would truly hope, Oscar-worthy) performance by Bullock – she carries this film, and turns in what I believe is the best performance of her career. 

It is a testament to Bullock that she has been able to maintain a vigorous career as a leading actress despite being 44 years old.  Most actresses of that age are not offered so many star roles, and I commend Bullock for that.  But the biggest bone that I usually have to pick with her career choices are that she picks films that simply aren’t good.  She portrays characters that are usually likable, but are too… something; arrogant, quirky, bitchy, which serve more as an annoyance than a brownie point.  But in her role as Leigh Anne, she is letter-perfect.  She is strong-willed without being overbearing, kind-hearted without being cloying, and charming without being fake.  And she’s also completely fearless.

The supporting actors are also wonderful.  Aaron imbues Michael with a sadness that is almost tangible; McGraw plays Leigh Anne’s husband Sean extremely well; Kathy Bates is terrific as Miss Sue, Michael’s tutor; and Leigh Anne’s kids, Collins and S.J. (Lily Collins Jae and Jae Head) are awesome.  (I dare ANYONE to not fall in love with S.J. in this film, he is absolutely adorable.)

And, lest I fail to mention it, the script is spectacular.  Though it is a story with a lot of pathos, there are also some hysterically funny moments, moments that had the packed house I was watching this film with roaring with laughter.  There are also plenty of triumphant moments, that had everyone clapping at exactly the right times.

I don’t give perfect scores to a film lightly.  To do so, a film has to go beyond my expectations and impress me with its entire being.  Mere enjoyment is not enough, it has to stand apart from others in its genre.  It has to make me want to recommend it to everyone I know, and it has to make me want to see it over and over again.  The Blind Side is just such a film.  There was not one single minute that I did not enjoy. 

This is the time of year that films come out that we expect more of.  Films that will be vying for gold statuettes come spring.  And after enduring a fall season that featured a seemingly endless string of so-so movies, finally something has come along that I can stand up and cheer for.  Go see this film.  You won’t be disappointed.

5 / 5 stars

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