It's a Touchdown for Bullock and Aaron
As has become the norm I ended up avoiding "The Blind Side" because everyone and their dog was jumping on the band wagon by proclaiming how great a movie it was. So when I did finally end up watching Sandra Bullock deliver her Oscar winning performance as Leigh Anne Touhy I was pleasantly surprised, so much that I would say that "The Blind Side" is one of those rare movies which is almost as good as everyone proclaimed it to be. I say almost because it has a pleasant storyline, a mix of drama, comedy and emotion plus some seriously special performances most notably from Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron. But for a movie which is the inspirational rags to riches tale of Michael Oher it tends to shy away from the darker, grittier side of things, focusing mainly on the positives.
Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron - Be Kind Rewind) is big for his age and it is his size which grabs Coach Burt Cotton's (Ray McKinnon - The Net) attention who manages to get him accepted into the religious school wear he works despite Michael's less than academic potential. But Michael struggles to fit in and that is just one of his many problems as he is homeless, having been taken by the state at a young age from his crack addicted mother. But all that changes when Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock - The Proposal) spots him walking in the freezing rain and decides to take him home to live with her family. With her guidance and support not only does Michael's academic grades improves but he also makes it on to the school football team, but more importantly for Michael he becomes one of the family.
Now "The Blind Side" is based upon a true story and that true story is the inspiration rags to riches tale of a homeless black American who is taken in by Leigh Anne Tuohy and her family who not only accept him as part of the family but also encourage him to become all he can be. As such whilst "The Blind Side" is based upon a true story there is a certain element of being a cliche, that may sound cruel but it is and so has similarities which flow through it which feel like they have come from other movies. But what is remarkable is that "The Blind Side" is not all cliche in fact whilst it does feature a certain amount of cliche scenes it resists always going for the complete obvious. And it makes it a much greater movie for resisting delivering an expected cliche scene such as the expected but never received scene where Michael is reunited with his mother.
On top of this restraint from being completely cliche it also has to be said that "The Blind Side" flows effortlessly rarely jumping from one scene to the next. I have to say rarely because the intro is a bit jumpy as we get a narration from Sandra Bullock over a clip from an American Football game, then Michael being interviewed and then jumping to two years earlier. That intro is confusing although it does all make sense come the end of the movie but after those opening scenes the story just flows and flows and flows.
Being an inspirational tale you have to say that director John Lee Hancock does manipulate are emotions as he delivers several clever scenes which makes us feel not only for Michael but also Leigh Anne. The magnificent thing is that whilst these scenes are obviously constructed to make us feel a certain way the way it is done is not always the most obvious. And I have to say that watching Michael burst into a smile or give a hug to Leigh Anne is one of the most powerful tools which Hancock uses. It delivers so much warmth when ever it happens but whilst causing you to well up with emotion it is happy emotion which brings a radiating smile to your face.
And those smiles also comes from some beautiful humour, not outright comedy but from some clever writing. The scene where the coach is struggling to get Michael to understand a certain thing only for Leigh Anne to explain to the young man what to do is just brilliant; it's fun but also clever. And that is the important thing as whilst there are plenty of humorous smile moments through out "The Blind Side" they come from something which is in keeping with the story rather than a heavily manufactured set piece.
On top of this you have to say that every single performance in "The Blind Side" works be it Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy or Jae Head as S.J. But it is the performances of Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron which makes the movie so good and together they just deliver one brilliant scene after another. Aaron really brings a warmth and naturalness to the character of Mike, and whilst it may seem like he doesn't have to do much other than playing the character as quiet and misunderstood it is really quite a remarkable performance of subtleties especially when he uses that brilliant smile.
But of course it is Sandra Bullock who won all the plaudits for her performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy and quite rightly so. Bullock manages to find the right amount of drama and seriousness for her character but at the same time resonating a touch of comedy from her natural warmth. It's hard to explain but what Bullock does is what you really want from any great performance and that is to create a character which you end up watching and not just an actress acting.
But whilst all of this makes "The Blind Side" a very good movie, one which draws you into the story, the relationships and inspires you with this heart warming rags to riches tale it does have one problem. To put it simply "The Blind Side" edges on the soft rather than the gritty and what I mean is that whilst it tells us that Michael had a rough childhood with a crack smoking mother and living in an area full of drug dealers it restrains itself from ever becoming dark. In a way it was probably the right thing to do because it makes "The Blind Side" very watch able and enjoyable but it also makes it a little too unreal.
What this all boils down to is that "The Blind Side" is a very good movie and one where I pretty much agree with all the praise which has been lavished upon it and Sandra Bullocks brilliant performance. Whilst for me it is a little soft in not really showing the darkness of Michael's younger years I can't ignore the fact that it is an uplifting, heart warming story one which I am sure I will end up watching more than once.