“With God All Things Are Possible”
Everyone enjoys a feel good story, especially if it’s based on fact. When the main character of the true life tale is a young man saved from the squalor of gang life and an inevitable bullet to be loved, educated, and sent on his merry way towards a career in the NFL, well you’ve got film adaptation written all over it. That is exactly what Warner Brothers thought when optioning Michael Oher’s past, via a book by Michael Lewis, and casting Sandra Bullock as the woman who stood strong to make it all happen. While The Blind Side is most definitely a paint-by-numbers structured script, it does have its merits and signature moments. Most plots of this kind would have the boy in question needing guidance and tough love to break from his rough and tumble life, breaking the wild horse so to speak, but not here. Instead, Oher is a large boy that is smarter than most give him credit for, and a gentle giant at that. Rather than subdue his emotions and attitude, the Touhy family needs to peel back his onion-like layers. The kid scored in the 98th percentile on protective instincts, he knows which side are the good guys.
Having been taken from his crack-addicted mother at a young age, becoming a ward of the state, moving foster home to foster home, Oher took his mother’s advice to heart about closing his eyes to the bad things and opening them up again to a fresh new world. This boy has the patience and forgiveness of a saint, leaving all behind him, forgetting and repressing anything he no longer wants to remember. As a result, he has become a virtual mute, afraid to speak out, instead allowing his studies to get worse and worse while being deemed lazy and incompetent by his teachers. Only when Kim Dickens, (it’s always a pleasure to see “Deadwood” alums working on the big screen, and she is just one of two with Ray McKinnon’s coach, a far cry from his epileptic priest on the show), as Mrs. Boswell, discovers his ability to retain information do the adults learn to get behind him. Lucking his way into a private Christian school, he needed that support to succeed; he needed the fortitude of the educators to realize that his poor reading skills did not mean he didn’t comprehend the material to the point where he could excel. I do believe this Christian bent is a large part of the film—if not the true story itself—showing people willing to open their hearts to the unfortunate.
The most surprising heart opener is, of course, Bullock’s Leigh Anne Touhy. Right from the start we are shown a career woman with the stomach to stand up to anyone in her way. Compassion is not her strong suit, as evidenced by the ‘loving’ praise towards her children in their school extracurriculars and the cell phone never being far away. She does love her family and her husband, a man who franchised Taco Bells to immense success after a star college basketball career, but it just seems she is missing her true calling. Having money and the ability to provide for her children doesn’t seem to be enough; only when she sees ‘Big Mike’ freezing in the cold, about to spend the night in the school gym, does she realize that she can make a difference, maybe not to the world as a whole, but at least to this one boy, this one night. It is the beginning of a familial bond that not only changes the young man’s life into having a future that could lead to professional sports, but also the family itself, showing them all what it means to stick up for the less fortunate and discover how deserving they are to find a way to better themselves beyond the usual stereotypes.
Everyone knows that Michael Oher eventually gets drafted, to the Baltimore Ravens in fact—don’t miss the great collage of the real people during the credits—so his success isn’t necessarily the crux of the film. Even from the start, Bullock’s Touhy narrates and makes it known that it is her story about how God was behind her in creating a miracle. The movie itself does drag a bit as we can only see the Touhy’s immense compassion so much, or the many instances of watching Oher triumph against all odds. Eventually there will be his need to get better grades, (in comes Kathy Bates’ tutor), there will be his need to go back to the ghetto and realize who his true family is, the necessary overcoming of tragedy and needing to save someone close to him, and of course the juxtaposition of his life’s turnaround to an old friend who chose a different path. The message itself is heavy-handed for sure, and spoon-fed throughout, but it’s expected. What make a good film in this heavily saturated genre are the little things like characters we can feel for and root for against all odds. Fortunately, The Blind Side has those in full.
Bullock really gets the opportunity to act for once instead of be the romantic lead. I thought she did a wonderful job, especially expressing the hard exterior and loving core that lies beneath; I even didn’t mind the accent too much. She and Quinton Aaron, playing Oher, have a palpable chemistry that evolves into a mother/son bond quickly. Aaron is fantastic as the troubled boy—so resonate in his stoic silence—doing so much with so little each and every time he is on screen. It is Tim McGraw, though, who I can’t help but heap praise on. I have not seen him in a bad role yet, and for a singer turned actor, that’s a surprise. I wasn’t quite sure how he’d handle the clean-cut, loving husband, but his natural charisma and comfortability in front of the camera shows through again. One also needs to mention Jae Head as S.J. because he is surely the comic relief, livening up the otherwise depressing subject matter. If the woman next to me at the screening would agree to anything, it was that he was pretty memorable in his too smart for his own age way. But then she really seemed to be enjoying herself throughout the film, understanding a lot going on, agreeing out loud to many points as though she had seen it all before, (much to the chagrin of many sitting around us). And, frankly, we’ve all seen it before. That doesn’t, however, mean, if done right, we wouldn’t mind seeing it again.
The Blind Side 7/10 | ★ ★ ★
 QUINTON AARON as Michael Oher in Alcon Entertainment’s drama “The Blind Side,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
 (L-R) JAE HEAD as S.J. TUOHY, QUINTON AARON as Michael Oher and SANDRA BULLOCK as Leigh Anne Tuohy in Alcon Entertainment’s drama “The Blind Side,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Ralph Nelson