Sunday, December 27, 2009

Movie with Abe: The Blind Side

The Blind Side
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Released November 17, 2009

Some movies just want to be inspiring. Being based on a true story certainly helps, because if the real-life events are actually inspiring, it’s a good bet that the film adaptation will be too. Yet simply expecting the story to be life-affirming and rousing doesn’t quite do the trick. Stories have to play themselves out to earn the tears of joy they might produce, and otherwise they just feel manufactured. Trying desperately to be moving by including stirring and motivating lines feels hopelessly forced, and that’s something that “The Blind Side” does over and over again, beating its over-sentimentalized drum to death.

“The Blind Side” is the story of Michael Oher, a homeless teen taken in by a wealthy woman and her family in Tennessee. The film only borrows half of the title of the book on which it’s based, “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.” The film opens with voiceover narration by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) discussing how offensive tackle Lawrence Taylor changed football in the 1980s, revealing her deep love for and complex knowledge of the game of football. From there, however, the football metaphor dies since it’s never referenced again, and Leigh doesn’t display her intricate understanding of football at any point. Instead, she tries to motivate Michael with corny speeches and her distinctive immutable personality.

Leigh is set up to be the dramatic heart and center of “The Blind Side” rather than the boy she takes in, and she’s more than up to the task of trying to carry it all by herself and inch her way in to dominate every frame. Bullock puts on a heavy accent and blond hair to assume the role, which is a considerable departure from her traditional parts as the bumbling but ultimately charming lead in romantic comedies. She puts far too much effort into shedding her usual personality, and the result is an artificial and entirely invasive presence which completely overpowers every other person. Part of it is the character – Tim McGraw as her overly supportive husband doesn’t stand a chance of getting his two cents heard – but part of it is the unnecessarily loud and obnoxious performance by Bullock.

On top of that, there’s no real dramatic mystery in “The Blind Side.” Michael Oher’s path from living on the streets to a successful career as a football player is hopelessly watered down. Any obstacles that appear in his path are both predictable and preposterous, and it’s rarely truly demonstrated that this is a struggle for him. This feels like the picture-perfect image of despair and underprivileged families put on the front of a brochure compared to the harrowing portrayal of poverty in “Precious.” The twists might have occurred in real life, but the way they play out on screen is hopelessly lacking in style and effectiveness. It all feels very fabricated and deliberate, intent on providing a happy ending without much indication that it’s not inevitable. Its sole aim is to pull at the heartstrings, and there’s not much else in the film besides that overemphasized sentimentality.


No comments: