John Lee Hancock’s quasi docu-dramatization of Michael Lewis’ book (The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game) scores well in the basics of bringing this inspirational story to the screen but fumbles the chance for greatness due to the preponderance of one-dimensional characters.
Everybody knows their role and the ensemble moves down the narrative field with very few obstacles along the road to victory.
Leading the fray is Sandra Bullock, portraying the won’t-take-yes-for-an-answer, rich-mom with a conscience, Leigh Anne Tuohy. Fearlessly walking across the tracks to the “bad” side of Memphis where she has no trouble staring/talking down the local thugs who unbelievably just roll over and let themselves become the “pushees.” Similarly, husband Sean (Tim McGraw), contents himself with bringing home the Grade A bacon and acquiescing to his spouse’s every whim and want—even ignoring the occasional put down.
A breath of precocious air comes in the slight but talented form of their youngest child, S.J. (Jae Head delightfully fulfills his largely comic-relief assignment), who is the ideal foil to the troubled soul, instant boarder that needs a football scholarship to escape homelessness and abandonment. His sister-to-be Collins (Lily Collins) is another model of good manners, go-with-the-flow demeanour—devoid of tantrums, hormone angst and parent bashing. Gosh, there must be something in the water.
At the centre of everything is Quinton Aaron’s thoughtful portrayal of offensive left tackle Michael Oher whose incredible luck (being sheltered, fed and finally adopted by the Tuohy’s) and determination (without high enough grades, no college would be able to make him a life-saving offer) are revealed in a compassionate manner that warms the heart even as the outcome is never in doubt. Sure, this is a true story, yet had it been a complete fiction, there was never enough real “danger” (the curmudgeonly by-the-book English teacher—Tom Nowicki—comes closest to being the real villain) to spark any dramatic heat. Happily, Kathy Bates is given the chore of tutoring the enormous young man, offering a few marvellous scenes of patient belief.
In many ways, this story runs a curious parallel to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (cross-reference below), Bullock taking the part of ever-loyal George and Aaron playing the gentle giant, Lennie. Had the potential of unintentionally using his extraordinary strength in a hurtful, possibly deadly way been more deeply probed and presented (there is a hint of that lurking power as Oher learns the basics then subtleties of his position) then the final result could have been less certain and the pace much improved.
Like all history and biography, selected events, necessarily, ensure that the whole truth is never revealed. A more varied crafting of the tenor and tone of this remarkable tale might have remedied the high degree of saccharine that dominates the film’s flavour. JWR