The Blind Side (Warner Bros., PG-13)

blind_side-header.jpgI’ll admit the movie is a bit of a tearjerker, but that doesn’t mean they get everything right.

 

 

 

 

 

People are often capable of passing right by when they come upon others who may need their help. Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) is not one of those people. When she and her family come upon teenaged Michael (Quinton Aaron) after a school game and realize he has nowhere to stay, she quickly invites him to spend the night in their palatial home. She may not have known it then, but that one night would soon turn into a life-long commitment.

The Blind Side falls into the category of inspirational, based-on-a-true-story films. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry. You’ll wonder how Michael survived his horrendous childhood without becoming a serial killer. You’ll be awed by all the differences between Michael and his new family. Or, that’s what the filmmakers want, at least. I’ll admit the movie is a bit of a tearjerker, but that doesn’t mean they get everything right.

Leigh Anne and her family are clearly meant to be the heroes of this film. They took in a boy they barely knew anything about and helped him get back on his feet. But there are moments where the Tuohys show the prejudice, insensitivity and thoughtlessness that can develop when you live in an idealized bubble.

For example, since Michael had no suitable clothes for the dead of winter, Leigh Anne takes him shopping in his old neighborhood. While they’re in the store she makes a few cracks about how ugly the clothes are and how the ‘leather’ coats are all make of vinyl or some other non-animal related substance. Now, Leigh Anne’s a smart woman, and yet she didn’t know to keep those things to herself and quietly suggest they go to another store. I mean, what did she expect to find in a store surrounded by the slums? Gucci and Armani?

When Michael, who is about 17 or 18 years old, asks Leigh Anne for help getting a driver’s license she actually says (to his face), "What do you need a driver’s license for? You don’t even have a car." Um…Of course he doesn’t have a car, when you met him he had no home, no family to care for him and only owned the clothes on his back.

How the hell do you say that to someone you met under those circumstances? He’s a teenager, maybe he would just like to learn to drive like most teenagers. Or, as Michael tells her moments later, maybe he simply wants to carry something with his name on it. Ok, rich lady? The child just wants to be easily identified.

Another thing I wasn’t crazy about is the way Michael’s education was treated in the movie. Once it becomes clear that the Tuohys are going to let Michael stay for awhile, the ritzy private school he’s gotten into tells them how far behind he is in every subject. What do Leigh Anne and her husband do about this? Nothing. Not until he needs to pull his grades up to be eligible for the football team next season, that is. Wow, really? You know the kid can hardly read, but you don’t bother to get him a tutor or take the time yourselves to help him with his homework? Man, not exactly treating Michael with the same respect as your natural born children, huh?

To be honest, it may be a good thing to see that the Touhys are a bit out of touch. What bothers me more is that Michael doesn’t really protest when he’s hit with tactlessness. Maybe it makes a bit of sense for someone who’s so young and been through so much not to object when it looks like he could finally get a home he can really stay in. But I still wanted to see him stand up for himself. How about calmly telling Leigh Anne in that store, "This is all most of the people around here can afford. If you want to go somewhere else, fine, but let’s not put the place down, ok?"

This role is quite a bit of a departure from Bullock’s usual fare, and I’m sure that’s why she took it on. Leigh Anne is tough, independent and not the least bit goofy or clumsy. She works quite well as a smart, spirited woman who’s got her shit together.

I wish more had been done, however, with Aaron. For playing the character at the foundation of this story, he doesn’t say much. And once you see his expressions shift deftly between wounded child, fear, confusion, gratefulness and hope for the future, you’ll want to hear more from him, too. | Adrienne Jones

Official website: www.theblindsidemovie.com/  

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