Ranking with the absolute worst examples of tripe that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has ever deigned to recognise with major award nominations, The Blind Side features a moderately capable performance by Sandra Bullock supported by a whole lot of nothing. The film is an embarassment to the voters who have decided it is worthy to compete with such brilliant films as The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds – this has ‘Midday Movie’ written all over it, but is dressed in Hollywood finery such that people are inclined to take it more seriously than it deserves.
Michael Oher is a big boy, such that he is nicknamed ‘Big Mike’, and a burden to the family who have taken him in after he has run away from every foster home that ever offered to look after him. When he is recognised as a potential athletic star by the head football coach at the prestigious Wingate Christian School in Memphis, he is accepted into a schooling environment he isn’t used to and will struggle to thrive in. After Michael becomes friends with a young boy SJ (Jae Head), he is recognised as needing somewhere to stay and is sheltered by SJ’s family, led by the determined Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock).
It is some time since a film so trite has been foisted upon an unsuspecting audience, and it is filled with dishonesty and half-truths. The Tuohys are presented as the archetypal Southern family, with a perfect life and a perfectly loving and accepting attitude to those around them – this might be the truth of the matter, but it seems unlikely and it certainly doesn’t make for good cinema. When the NCAA challenges Oher’s acception of a scholarship from the University of Mississippi and brings into question the reasons behind the Tuohy’s support of Oher, the audience is supposed to believe they would accept his rather minimal but heart-warming explanation as the truth. Time and again there are hints at something less than perfect under the surface – racist football referees and fans, conflict between Mr and Mrs Tuohy, the suggestion that Michael might be tempted to rape Collins Tuohy (their daughter) – and time and again the subject is given scant consideration before being brushed aside in favour of a ‘Hallmark moment’.
The only element of the film that is dealt with openly is the life and lifestyle of the poorest (predominantly black) neighbourhoods of Memphis, with drugs and their consequences on users and their loved ones given a full treatment. Even here, The Blind Side is shallow and manipulative, and a more cornball final scene voiceover and montage can scarcely be imagined. It seems remarkable that many commentators have failed to comment on this dishonesty, with only a few brave enough to say that the film is condescending at best and flirts dangerously with being racist.
The frequent use of flashbacks to remind the audience of why a certain scene is meaningful is another reminder that the filmmakers clearly have no respect for their viewers: if we can’t be expected to remember a scene from barely moments before then heaven help us. Further, the script is particularly awful, featuring such clankers as Bullock’s character asking her husband one night ‘Am I a good person?’ as some sort of shorthand for introspection and self-doubt.
It is truly difficult to see why so many have fallen under the spell of this awful, awful film, and that it has been nominated for best film at today’s Academy Awards borders on the astonishing. No amount of Hollywood polish can change its underlying nature.Rating: