Not being a fan of sports movies, I didn’t go into The Blind Side with the highest of expectations. I was afraid this would be another cliché sports movie about an underdog football player helping his team to win at the last possible second. That’s why I was thrilled to discover that the film is not actually about football, but a person who just happens to be a football player. Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens suffered great hardships in his youth, but was able to overcome with the help of a family that took him in as one of their own. The filmmakers manage to tell this inspiring story while maintaining a strong balance of humor and drama. A definite crowd-pleaser, football might be a constant presence throughout the film, but the movie is about so much more.
At the center of the film is Sandra Bullock’s career-best (and Oscar-winning) performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy, a strong-willed, slightly intimidating Southern woman. Bullock completely loses herself in the performance. The recently released Blu-Ray has several behind the scenes features showing the real Tuohy, and it is amazing just how perfectly Bullock represents the character. She encapsulates everything about this woman, and it is an astonishing to see her transformation.
Quinton Aaron, who plays Oher, doesn’t seem to be doing as much of an impersonation, but his performance is just as strong. Much like the real-life Oher, Aaron is a very large individual. But he portrays the character with a frailty in direct contradiction to his physical features. Seeing Aaron’s representation of this meek giant alongside Bullock’s performance as a tiny powerhouse is fascinating.
When these two characters first meet, Oher is walking down the road at night, alone. He is heading towards the school gym so he could have a warm place to sleep. Tuohy’s family happens to be passing and offers him a place to spend the night. Before they know it, this one generous offer has led to Oher essentially becoming a member of their family. Throughout the course of the film, we watch his bond develop with Leigh Ann, her husband Sean, daughter Collins and son S.J. (Sean, Jr.). S.J. often steals the movie from the rest of the cast with his over-the-top energy and enthusiasm for everything around him. I don’t know how much the real S.J. is like this character, but this portrayal is a lot of fun to watch.
As Oher is a large African-American, and the Tuohy’s are a rich white family, this does lead to conflict in their town. The film does briefly address this conflict, but it is given very little notice overall. In fact, it’s mostly played for humor such as when Oher is included in their Christmas card. But overall, race is not the point of the film. It’s about the bond between this family, and their attempt to help him become the best person he can be with his given background.
There are elements of the story that are cliched, and overall, it does seem kind of manipulative. But for the most part, the film works. The only segment that really felt out of place was a brief sequence where Oher runs away after being told by the NCAA that the Tuohy’s might have been so kind to him simply to push him towards playing football at their chosen school. This moment comes out of nowhere, and is resolved relatively briefly. I understand that it might have been a significant moment in their real lives, but it didn’t seem to fit in the context of this film.
The most interesting element of the recently released Blu-Ray is the footage of the real-life Leigh Ann talking behind-the-scenes with Bullock. They seem to have become good friends and it’s fascinating to see how much work went into Bullock’s portrayal. There is also a brief interview (about 10 minutes) with the real-life Michael Oher, who discusses key moments throughout the film and what it was like to actually live those moments. Other features include a look at a sequence involving several SEC college football coaches who played themselves in the film. I don’t watch football, and didn’t even realize these were real people when I was watching the movie, but it was a lot of fun to see all of their enthusiasm to be on a film set, as well as the cast and crew’s enthusiasm to be working with them. Rounding out the extras are a rather dull feature on Aaron and the parallels of his life to the role he played, and a conversation between the director (John Lee Hancock) and the author of the book on which the film is based (Michael Lewis). There are also four deleted scenes.
Yes, I admit that the film is not perfect. There isn’t a lot of drama to the story. Mostly, it consists of watching happy people helping other people out. As I said, there is a little bit of forced drama and manufactured conflict, but this is a movie designed to make you feel good. That’s probably why audiences responded so well to it in the theatres. It doesn’t matter whether you like sports movies or not. Only the most cynical viewers wouldn’t be moved by this touching story.