With its gentle humor and well drawn characters, “The Blind Side,” directed by John Lee Hancock, written by Hancock, based on the book by Michael Lewis, offers a rah-rah story of an unlikely, even miraculous Cinderella rise from bleakness to fulfillment. Though the story doesn’t end where it logically should have ended and perhaps it would have been better if we were let in on the fact that it was based on true events, it nonetheless offers enough feel-good moments and a momentum that swells and pitches like the tidings of a crowd on a Saturday afternoon at a college football game. The cast ran well with the roles assigned to them.
It’s set in Memphis. A do-gooder, Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), takes in what amounts to an orphan, Micher Oher (Quinton Aaron): his father jumped off a bridge, his mother had so many men, consumed so many drugs, she might as well have been dead to him. The story may describe how Michael gets up his grades so he can attend Ole Miss on a football scholarship and later play professional football; but it’s really the story of how Leigh Anne, an interior decorator by trade, doesn’t just pay lip service to noblesse oblige, she does something about it. Her husband, Sean (Tim McGraw), a former basketball player at Ole Miss, owns a slew of Taco Bell franchises and supports Leigh Anne’s makeover of Michael, as does her son, S.J. (Jae Head), who’s really more of a cheerleader than his sister, Collins (Lily Collins). The movie contains some bitter, many sweet scenes of Michael navigating through his past (drug dens, guns, crime), through his present (a 0.6 GPA, a gentle demeanor that originally drives Coach Cotton (Ray McKinnon), crazy, and some redneck hecklers), and into a magnificent future (a college education, a pro football contract).
The actors nicely capture the nuances of this rags-to-riches story. Michael is a gentle giant. He’s shy, polite, and though his grades are atrocious, he did score 97% on a “protective instincts” test, a trait Leigh Anne cleverly uses to get him to obliterate opposing linemen. He’s also not bitter, not vengeful, and not closed to the idea that his future could hold something in store for him. Bullock’s Leigh Anne is sassy, pushy, and certainly wears her wealth in a flashy manner but this is to set up her devotion to Michael, her keen insight into the best way to motivate Michael. And Kathy Bates is quite spectacular as Miss Sue, Michael’s private tutor who doesn’t just help him get his GPA above 2.5 so he can play Division One football, but moves to Oxford, Mississippi so he can continue to get good enough grades to hold onto his scholarship. She’s as sassy and pushy as Leigh Anne, which is appropriate, but there’s a very funny scene in which she tells Michael a chilling Kathy Bates-esque tale of body parts that lie under a football field, so he won’t attend a college other than Ole Miss.
The movie has an adrenaline-fueled trajectory. It continues to build as the film reaches what we think is the conclusion: Michael’s acing his senior year’s classes so he can attend college. As he receives his diploma people stood up as if to go. It certainly made sense to stop the film there. But then follows a fifteen minutes photomontage of images of the real Michael and his real adopted family. It was a very clumsy way to reveal to us the movie was based on a true story and buzz-killed the feel-good climax the movie attained at the high school graduation.