The Blind Side
As an avowed Sandra Bullock non-fan, and a moviegoer not drawn to inspirational sports movies, I found myself in the unlikely situation of buying a ticket to see The Blind Side in the theater. What brought me there? It's place in the Best Picture and Best Actress race. Now that I've seen The Blind Side, I've seen all 10 nominees before Sunday night's ceremony.
First, the good, and I'm a bit surprised to say it. Sandra Bullock as Leigh Ann Touhey. After seeing this movie, I'm actually not upset that Bullock got an Oscar nomination. As the tough-as-nails rich Southern mother who takes in a large African-American boy to her home, Bullock imbues the role with the right amount of sass and heart. Strutting around in her tight designer
clothes and telling everyone off, from the drug dealers in the projects to her high-society friends, Bullock makes the role funny and believable without going too over the top. That said, this performance would not make by Top 5 of the year, and I do think it's a shame that she seems to be on the road to the win over Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, and Gabourey Sidibe. The first half of the movie is actually a fairly good retelling of a true story as we get to know the characters. This is also a good tearjerker, and I'm not surprised it's been a big hit across the country.
Now for my qualms. First, aside from Sandra Bullock, the acting was pretty sub-par. Quinton Aaron, who plays Michael Oher, is all silence and small smiles, but there is little depth or subtext to his performance. For a movie about this boy, it almost seems we hardly get to know him. He is far better, however, than the young Jae Head, perhaps the most annoying child actor I have seen in a very long time. He plays Leigh Ann's son, and the movie tries to knock the audience over the head with his cuteness.
My biggest problem with the movie was its underlying theme. It's almost impossible to watch this film, about a large young African-American with educational difficulties, and not think of Precious. In Precious, Precious is assisted by her teacher and her education in finding her liberation, but in the end the audience has little doubt that it comes from her own soul. In The Blind Side, everything seems to be done for Michael Oher by Leigh Ann Touhey, as if he is incapable of making his own decisions. While I'll give the movie some slack since its a true story, its continuation of white savior cliches definitely rubbed me the wrong way. It doesn't help that the neighborhood Michael comes from, and the people in it, are portrayed in the most stereotypical "ghetto" images imaginable.
So what I was left with was a star vehicle for Sandra Bullock that indisputably tells a story with a lot of goodness and heart in it. The movie containing this performance and story, however, is fairly artless and plays on some dangerous stereotypes. A Best Picture nominee? Not on my ballot.