BLIND SIDE, THE
Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a homeless, undereducated African-American youngster from a broken home in Memphis, is taken in by the Touhys, a well-to-do white family of Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock), her businessman husband Sean (Tim McGraw), their daughter Collins (Lily Collins) and young son S.J. (Jae Head). At first, Leigh Anne is simply helping a needy boy in the short term - but it soon becomes long term, as the introverted and gentle but physically imposing Michael discovers a talent for sport. Oher's presence in the Touhy's lives leads them to some insightful self-discoveries of their own. Living in his new environment, the teen faces a completely different set of challenges to overcome. As a football player and student, Oher works hard and, with the help of his coaches and adopted family, becomes successful football player.
Review by Louise Keller;
All things are possible is the moral of this heart rending inspirational story based on real events about a homeless teen given an opportunity of a new life in which he becomes a football star. The beauty of the story - and our subsequent uplifting journey, lies in the many elements and layers that are slowly revealed through the narrative. Hope for courage and try for honour is the motto of wealthy Republican American wife and mother Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), whose protective instincts find their rewards when she sees a shivering, oversized Afro American youth wandering the streets at night. It's a wonderful role for Bullock, who delivers her best performance yet as a brash, non-sentimental woman whose exterior conceals a complex, deeply caring woman of substance.
I love the scene in which Bullock's Leigh Anne is lunching with her wealthy friends, all dripping in expensive jewellery and designer clothes. They sneeringly comment on the charity Leigh Anne has shown to the boy she has welcomed into her home and family (Quinton Aaron's Michael Oher), marvelling how her charity will enrich his life. It is at that moment that we understand what makes Leigh Anne tick when she replies that it is HER life that has become enriched.
Filled with humour and pathos, it's an extraordinary story nicely handled by director John Lee Hancock, who has written a controlled screenplay based on Michael Lewis's book. We become involved in the privileged life of the Tuohy family who show us by example what makes a good person. All the cast is excellent: Tim McGraw as the husband who recognizes that a happy wife is a happy life, Jae Head as the bright-as-a-button son and Lily Collins as the unaffected cheer-leader daughter. Fine performances too from Kathy Bates' Democrat spiritual tutor with doubts and Quinton Aaron in the demanding role of Big Mike (he prefers to be called Michael), who until now has walked through life with closed eyes and whose highly developed protective instincts are allowed to blossom.
Hancock avoids soppy sentimentality and also avoids portraying Leigh Anne as a Pollyanna do-gooder. She is flesh and blood with plenty of spirit - and a vocabulary of colourful language. We are moved when we least expect it and while the Hollywood style glosses over some of the gritty elements, our journey is a surprising, funny, moving and uplifting one as destinies and aspirations intersect.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The amount I know about American football wouldn't fill a pin's head, but I do know about the importance of telling stories in which hope is dispensed. A little like Precious, Michael Oher - pronounced 'oar' - (Quinto Aaron) is a profoundly disadvantaged, oversized black kid. He has long abandoned his dysfunctional family and is floating in limbo when the Touhy family literally pick him up roadside. He goes to school with their youngster, S.J (Jae Head) and now he can come home with him.
All this is effectively established in the first act, after a brief football lesson narrated by Sandra Bullock's Leigh Anne Touhy, who is the driver of this fact-based story. Bullock has garnered awards attention for her snappy portrayal of this rich middle class (Republican) woman who seems driven to help Michael, in a genuine and sincere fashion. She is surprised and shocked when it's suggested that she may have an ulterior motive; but the fact that the screenplay deals with the subject is commendable and honest.
The story is told in the recognisable Hollywood manner, polished and packaged, but that doesn't detract from its impact; it also tackles some of the darker materials of the story when Leigh Anne tracks down Michael's natural mother, a damaged and drug addicted woman who has enough of the mother left in her to feel shame.
Bullock gets all the nuances right and shows us a character who is far from simplistic; a complex and sometimes self contradictory woman who nevertheless oozes positive vibes. But she's no meek and mild missionary; more like an avenging angel if provoked - which she sometimes is.
Quinto Aaron has a difficult role, playing a quiet, introverted boy whose sheer size makes him seem powerful and unassailable. Of course his size has no bearing on his feelings or his troubled family background. Aaron does a great job, drawing us in to Michael and letting us discover him gradually.
All the supports are great, notably the Touhy children, daughter Collins (Lily Collins) and precocious but entertaining youngster S.J. (Jae Head). Tim McGraw has the thankless role of the husband, whose business has provided the family with their material wealth - but they seem to have also stayed true to the Christian ideals in the way they behave day to day. And that's not to say they're portrayed as some goody two shoes family: but perhaps the film is keen for us to see their best aspects.
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BLIND SIDE, THE (PG)
CAST: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Jae Head, Lily Collins, Ray McKinnon, Kim Dickens, Adriane Lenox, Kathy Bates, Catherine Dyer, Andy Stahl, Tom Nowicki
PRODUCER: Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Gil Netter
DIRECTOR: John Lee Hancock
SCRIPT: John Lee Hancock (book by Michael Lewis)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alar Kivilo
EDITOR: Mark Livolsi
MUSIC: Carter Burwell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michael Corenblith
RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 25, 2010