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The Blind Side

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The Blind Side
She may have undertaken such impressive movie feats as wrestling control of a runaway bus and going undercover to infiltrate a beauty pageant, but it's her awards-hoovering role as a conservative matriarch in The Blind Side that will probably be Sandra Bullock's defining career moment. Taking inspiration from Michael Lewis's bestseller, writer/director John Lee Hancock scores a touchdown with this uplifting family drama about a homeless high-schooler who makes it to the NFL draft. It's the sassy, heartfelt performance from Bullock that sends the movie to heights it wouldn't scale with a less-accomplished actress front and centre.

It's no surprise that the film has wracked up $250 million in ticket sales across the pond - it's US idealism writ large on screen and its articulation of family values and sporting euphoria will certainly have resonated with Middle America. The story centres on decorator Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock) and how she pulls the towering teen Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) away from a life on the street and into a family unit that push him on to greatness. Michael is a lofty presence, but the forces of gravity appear to have a stronger affect on him than most. He slouches and skulks across the screen, his face drooping thanks to years of suppressed trauma. It's the idiosyncratic mother/son relationship he has with Leigh Anne that provides the backbone of the story.

Bullock's power-dressing Leigh Ann is a force of nature, click-clacking across the screen in stilettos and imbuing her tough-as-nails Memphis mother with a heart of gold. A training scene where Leigh Anne delicately dismounts from the bleachers, quietly informs Coach Cotton (Ray McKinnon) where he's going wrong, then proceeds to lecture the hulking high school team on tactics, encapsulates all that's great about her in this performance (the physical comedy, startling self-confidence and protective instinct she shares with Michael). For all the excellent acting work, there is one glaring misstep in the shape of Leigh Anne's son S.J. (Jae Head), whose overtly-cutesy turn resembles an annoying Jar Jar Binks-esque sidekick and grates just a little too much.

The Blind Side may not have the depth of character of Friday Night Lights (neither is it as good a film about American football), but through Hancock's earnest script it cleverly navigates the emotional push-and-pull of family strife and against-all-odds personal triumphs without feeling too manipulative. When one of Leigh Anne's friends asks if her adoption of Michael is "a white guilt thing", it's an accusation that could be levelled at the movie as a whole. Hancock, though, appears to be aware of this and his celebration of apple pie Americana (complete with Norman Rockwell nods) is punctuated by funny self-awareness. "Who would've thought we'd have a black son before we met a Democrat?" remarks Leigh Anne's laid-back husband Sean (Tim McGraw) after they hire Kathy Bates's home tutor Miss Sue. Cynical eyes may accuse The Blind Side of targeting the broadest audience possible, and perhaps they have a point, but if that's the case then it does the crowd-pleasing act almost perfectly.


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