Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Blind SIde (2009)

Sorry for such a delay kids, I've been busy trying to catch up on my potential Oscar nominees, so I should be posting entries on several of them within the coming days. For now, I'm going to do The Blind Side, which is probably the weakest film on the list.

For anyone interested in awards season, it's pretty much a fact that Sandra Bullock has pulled in front in the Oscar race for this film. It's sad, really, since I've seen 3 of the expected nominees, and Bullock's work is easily the weakest, but mor eon that later.

The Blind Side is the true story of Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a professional football player. But when the film begins, Michael is homeless, doing poorly in school and struggling to fit in. That is until the Tuohy family led by matriarch Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) take Michael in. Now as part of their clan, he flourishes, his grades improve and his protective instincts are put to use on the school football team.

The story is very run of the mill, anyone with a brain cell can see where the film is going, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing in some cases, the film isn't strong enough for you to simply enjoy the journey of the film. The weakest aspect of the film is how is tries way too hard to be meaningful and tug at your heart strings. Every single moment that could possibly elicit emotion is accompanied with uplifting music and/or slow motion. The film is like a kid at an orphanage, trying desperately to make you desire to take it home. It has all the subtlety of a drag queen. By the time Michael and the Tuohy's son are rapping to "Bust-A-Move" in the car, I had almost checked out.

Luckily, the best part of the film is that Sandra Bullock is able to play the character in a way that doesn't totally dissolve into saccharine sweetness. Leigh Anne is strong willed and willing to fight for her family, and Bullock gives the character an adequate amount of strength, humor and charm. But does she deserve the Oscar? Not really. The character is a strong-willed Southern woman, and there's not much there in the way of true character depth (though, I suspect the blame lies with the writer as opposed to Bullock). The rest of the cast flounders in parts that are way too one note. The biggest offender is the character of S.J., the Tuohy family's young son who only acts as the overly cutesy and sassy kid and offers nothing more to the film except mind-searing irritation.

In general, the film is simply too easy, in a sense. Michael is accepted with little to no argument from any of the family members, and over half of the film is "Look what the family is doing for Michael now!", getting him a car, taking him clothes shopping, it feels very condescending with the whole "The white family saves the poor black man" angle. And while they try to assert that Michael is changing the family just as much as they're changing him, that claim ultimately fails as the family is essentially perfect in the beginning of the film and perfect in the end.

And the end of the film presents a truly bizarre dilemma as Michael's admission to Ole Miss (the alma matter of both Tuohy parents and Michael's tutor played by Kathy Bates) is questioned as a sort of plot by the Tuohy's to trick Michael into going to the school and playing football for them. While this itself isn't that bad, it's suggested that now wealthy white families will be taking in poor black people an an attempt to bolster their football teams. It's ridiculous, and it's also handled so quickly that it feels almost like an afterthought to the film.

I'm not trying to say that the film is offensively bad. It's really just too generic of a film to suggest that people run out and see it. But as I said, Sandra Bullock gives a strong performance that saves the film from complete and total mediocrity. And if you're the sort who cries at the drop of a hat to films and you're look for something moderately uplifting, this should fit the bill. But for everyone else, you've been warned.

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