DIR: John Lee Hancock • WRI: John Lee Hancock • PRO: Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Gil Netter • DOP: Alar Kivilo • ED: Mark Livolsi • DES: Michael Corenblith • CAST: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw, Jae Head, Lily Collins
How did this dross manage to be nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars®?
The Blind Side is supposedly based on the life of Michael Oher, a rags-to-riches American football star, but really it is the ‘true’ story of the Tuohy family – a rich, squeaky-clean family the likes of which George Bush senior dreamed off when he was quoted pontificating jibber-jabber about how families should be less like the Simpsons and more like the Waltons. Headed by the gun-packing, right-wing, Christian mother Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock), the family wave their magic wand and sprinkle their dream-dust over the poor Michael Oher (Quintin Aaron) and grant him the perfect life he never would have been blessed with had he stayed in that goddamn ghetto where his uncaring, druggie momma dragged him up.
Thanks to the divine intervention of the Tuohy family, Michael ‘learns’ how to play football and is ‘given’ an education so that he can go to college and play his way to the major league, where he becomes a star. Lucky for him he met some rich selfless white folks who save poor helpless black folk. That’s the major problem with this film – it depicts some sort of white saviour syndrome.
Now this may well be based on a true story (interesting to note that Oher himself has virtually disowned the film). But the truth is predicated on the Tuohys’ side of events. In particular Leigh Anne Tuohy. As a result, it is Sandra Bullock’s film (hence her Oscar®). Everything that goes on around her exists to spotlight her performance. While there’s no denying Bullock’s performance, it also stands as testament to the ignorant portrayal of Michael Oher. He is nothing in this film but a stooge that allows Bullock to shed tears, sissy fit about the place and make a home for her newfound exotic pet. There is nothing in the film that seeks to give a voice to Michael’s experience as his discomfort is used as an excuse to starve him of lines, strip him of motivation, and deny his own experience. He is basically a non-entity in the film, lacking any sort of subjectivity and exists as nothing more than an object of ‘charity’.
There is one among many grating scenes when the Tuohy’s provide Michael with a tutor (Kathy Bates) to improve his grades. Determined for him to go to a particular college, she attempts to put him off going to a rival’s college by force-feeding him some gobbledygook about bodies being buried under the pitch to scare him away – so there you have it: his tutor treating him like an imbecilic child who’ll swallow any old crap so that she can get her way. Tute on!
John Lee Hancock directs with all the skill of an ice-skating hippopotamus and serves up as many stereotypes and one-dimensional characters as Rafael Nadal’s aces. The script is full of wince-inducing dialogue and peppered with inanities (‘You’ve changed that boy’s life’…‘No. He’s changed mine’).
This revisionist skewering of biography has all the empathy of those ’80’s Sunday made- for-TV true stories of how heroic humanity can be in the face of despair. But in this film there is no sense of despair; rather an endless parade of backslapping heroism of the haves helping out the have-nots. Its saccharine oversimplification of complex sociological issues is a travesty. Don’t be fooled by Mister Oscar® – this is aneurism-inducing storytelling. At times, it’s like being in a coma and being force-fed heroin by Sarah Palin.
The Blind Side is released 26th March 2010