In The Blind Side, Sandra Bullock pulls off her second box office feat of the year and writer/director John Lee Hancock exceeds expectations with one of the most satisfying drama-comedies of the year. The movie, about the story of NFL football player Michael Oher, is one the entire family can enjoy, even if none are fans of the sport.
Bullock stars as - no, not Michael Oher - Leigh Anne Tuohy, a platinum blonde who cares a little too much about people. When she sees "Big Mike" (Quinton Aaron) walking outside in a T-shirt in sub-freezing temperatures with no place to go, she feels obliged to take him in and give him some food. But what starts out as one night of compassion turns into a much longer stay, to where Michael becomes a part of the family. Aided by his new family, Michael learns how to play football and goes on to become one of the most sought-after players by colleges and, eventually, the NFL.
The movie succeeds on many levels, most notably Bullock's Golden Globe-nominated performance. Bullock has always been an enjoyable actress, even when she's throwing crap at audiences, but if 2009 is anyone's year, it is definitely hers. Following The Proposal - the surprise summer hit that went on to become Bullock's biggest movie of her career - The Blind Side upped the ante even further, making more money and garnering stronger reviews. We'll ignore September's All About Steve, which no one saw and no one cared to.
Bullock turns in a delicious performance as a compulsively helpful woman who verges on being annoyingly pretentious but never quite reaches that plateau. She talks with a slight southern twang and looks like all the other dolled Christian friends she has, except that she actually wants to help people and doesn't just talk about it. She's funny, but not in the typical Sandra Bullock way, and yet has a serious charisma that sets this character apart from her others.
The actress is complemented by a strong but unlikely cast. Tim McGraw plays the husband well enough and Jae Head is enjoyable as their youngest son, but it's Quinton Aaron who turns in the most likable, "root for him at all costs" performance. Aaron won't win any awards - for a movie based on his character's life, he isn't given a lot of dramatical range - but his subdued, minimal dialogue approach works well.
The Blind Side is a fun, entertaining and lighthearted drama that offers a fair amount of chuckles and plenty of reasons to smile. The movie flows incredibly well thanks to Hancock's subtle direction. The movie could have easily become a typical sports movie or, just as easily, a sappy drama, but for whatever reason all the elements click just right.
But before people start talking Oscar - okay, they already have - let's take a step back and think about such potential. Is The Blind Side the best movie of the year? Is Sandra Bullock's performance the best female performance of the year? No, and maybe. As good as The Blind Side is, it lacks the dramatic grit that defines Best Picture winners. For as much adversity as Oher faced in his young life, the movie is surprisingly devoid of legitimate conflict. Bullock is terrific in her role, but again, there isn't a ton of meat to the performance. Then again - 2009 is lacking many hard-hitting dramas or powerful female performances (actually, there are no blow-me-away female performances that I can think of). This could be Bullock's year for Oscar glory, but let's not kid ourselves: The Blind Side is a great movie, but not one that deserves Oscar gold.
Still, The Blind Side is absolutely recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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