Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Blind Side

The Blind Side Directed by John Lee Hancock (Alcon Entertainment, 2009)

When the subject of homelessness is brought up, as it rarely is in polite conversation, it evokes a variety of responses; hand wringing, finger pointing and guilty donations to charity among them. The reaction rarely seen is action. How many of us want to roll up our sleeves and get involved with the homeless personally like Mother Teresa? The Blind Side is the true story of Leigh Anne Tuohy(Sandra Bullock), a Southern Belle who did just that, remaking the life of Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) so well that he ended up getting a scholarship to play football at her alma mater, Ole Miss, and becoming an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens.

At 6-foot-9, 350 pounds, Oher certainly stood out at Wingate, a mostly white upper-class school in Memphis. He had been admitted to the school for his athletic prowess, since his sketchy academic record and GPA of 0.6 showed little promise.

Taciturn and shy, Big Mike traveled the halls of the school like a shadow, seen but not heard, until one night, when the fact that he was wearing a short-sleeved shirt on a cold fall evening caught Leigh Anne Tuohy's attention. The Tuoys took Mike home ‘for just one night' and an unusual new relationship was born.

Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw) is a successful entrepreneur who owns as his son SJ (Jae Head) explained to Mike "about a million Taco Bells" and was providing his family a lavish lifestyle, yet something was missing. Somehow, the homeless teen became the final link completing the Tuohy family, despite the comments of Leigh Anne's well heeled lunch lady friends. Only one of her friends was positive: "You've changed that boy's life." Leigh Anne replied, "No, he's changed ours."

A football film that's not really about football, The Blind Side has garnered two awards, Sandra Bullock's first Oscar for Best Actress, and The Critics' Choice Award, but more importantly, it captured the imagination of the American public. The film was released November 20, 2009, yet when I finally got to see it after Christmas, the theater was packed. A mixed crowd with a number of senior citizens laughed and cried at this remarkable film.

Not expected to be the huge success it was, The Blind Side is the most popular film of Sandra Bullock's career. Part of the film's success is a talented cast with chemistry which sends sparks flying; Sandra Bullock is as Leigh Anne Tuohy whose effervescence stands in bold relief against Quinton Aaron's inscrutability.

The heart of the film is the story about someone who followed her faith to go beyond her comfort zone and reach out to a young man who had every right to bitterness, but left it behind and accepted her help gratefully. It seems that the tired theme of a person haunted by a traumatic childhood which drives him or her over the edge has finally played itself out. In tough economic times, we need more encouragement than self-pity. As Michael Oher says, "We all have tough times. What we have to do is taking it and run with it."

The Blind Side does just that.

By Leticia Velasquez, whose film reviews have been published by Reuters, USA Today, and her own site Catholic Media Review.

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