Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

January 29, 2010

Schmaltzy side up

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:45 pm

January 29, 2010

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron

Director: John Lee Hancock

The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock, is the kind of remarkable true story that Hollywood invariably homogenizes into a schmaltzy, superficial tear-jerker. It’s a feel-good movie that never stops feeling good.

Adapted from a nonfiction bestseller, The Blind Side is about a wealthy white American family that takes in a homeless black teenager and encourages him to play football. What makes the film relevant is the fact that the kid in question, Michael Oher now plays in the NFL for theBaltimore Ravens.

Sandra Bullock stars as Leigh Anne Tuohy, a Memphis mother of two, who spots the black kid (played by Quinton Aaron) near her children’s school on a cold winter night, clad only in a T-shirt and shorts. When she learns that he studies in the same class as her daughter and appears to have nowhere to go, she invites him to stay the night in their sprawling home. The boy’s very grateful, but barely speaks at all. Leigh Anne and her family, however, have a heart of gold. They insist that Michael lives with them permanently, and they make him a part of the family.

Football fanatic that she is, Leigh Anne pushes Michael to pursue his interest in the game, making sure he’s good enough to get on the school team, even teaching him a trick or two about how to pass block.

Quinton Aaron delivers an understated performance as Oher, who’s portrayed as something of a near-mute saint in this film. He shows no interest in girls or in making friends, in television or videogames for that matter. He just hangs out quietly around Leigh Anne’s kids and establishes more or less invisible but deep-rooted bonds with them. Oddly for a film about this kid, The Blind Side turns Oher into a supporting character in his own movie.

The star here, you see, is Sandra Bullock, and this is her best role yet. Her performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy is obviously played to garner Oscar consideration, and more than likely she will take the trophy home. But the problem is that it’s a self-serving performance that undercuts the potential power of the story. Bullock plays Leigh Anne as a feisty mom who marches up to high school players and doesn’t think twice before dispensing her pearls of coaching wisdom. She takes on a crack dealer and threatens him with dire consequences. But her most cringe-worthy moment has got to be the one at a lunch table where one of her high-society friends refers to Oher and remarks to Leigh Anne: “You’re changing that boy’s life.” She replies, her eyes going moist: “No, he’ changing mine.”

The Blind Side may be based on a true story but you never feel like the film honestly captures what’s true about it. It seems devoted to showing us what an upbeat selfless family the Tuohys are, and as a result, the dramatic conflicts in the film become secondary.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for The Blind Side; it turns Oher’s remarkable life into a Hollywood fable. For those who’re easily moved, this film will undoubtedly work. For me it was over-sentimental to a fault.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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