It's been praised in the US as a feel good study of human nature at its most transcendent: the tale of a well-heeled southern Christian Republican mom who took in an oversized black teenager from the wrong side of the tracks and helped him turn his life around. Yet on this side of the Atlantic at least, The Blind Side has been roundly pilloried for its patronising TV-movie-esque take on what most critics suspect must have been a far more complex real-life story.
Michael Oher, the giant bear of a boy at the heart of the film, is now a successful offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens NFL side, and Leigh Anne Tuohy, played here by Sandra Bullock, really did adopt him into her sport-mad Memphis family and help him achieve that goal. Yet something about John Lee Hancock's movie feels airbrushed, like a picture postcard version of reality, and nobody can quite believe that Bullock's ballsy yet one-dimensional peformance was worthy of its Oscar.
At the beginning of The Blind Side, Oher (Quinton Aaron) is struggling to adapt to life at a new, private Christian school where he has been accepted for his sporting potential rather than any academic achievement. He has no family to speak of and spends his nights sleeping in the school gym after visiting the local launderette to wash one of his two sets of clothes, slipping his things in with someone else's when nobody's looking.
Spotted by Tuohy walking in the pouring rain in nothing but a T-shirt and shorts, Oher is invited to spend the night on the family's couch, then asked to stay for Thanksgiving, and before he knows it, has his own room and bed (his very first). Aside from a car accident in which he prangs the new Hummer he's been given for passing his driving test, matters run very smoothly indeed, with Oher soon excelling at American football and doing well enough in his classes to suggest he may have a chance of earning an education. The only real conflict in the film comes towards the end, when an official for the National Collegiate Athletic Association suggests to Oher that the Tuohys may have adopted him in order to channel his sporting talent towards their favourite university side.
"Just because the story is true doesn't make it real," writes the Telegraph's Sukdev Sandhu. "The Blind Side is a deliberately mushy and obfuscatory exercise in sentimentality that's more interested in feelings than politics. And, it has to be said, white people rather than black people. Hancock assumes you the viewer are white, and that you'll care about – and maybe even identify with – Leigh's personal journey more than anything else. Bullock is perfectly fine Going South: she's dyed her hair, does ballsy rather than her usual ditsy, and stomps though each scene as if she owns it. But that's no reason why Michael should be such a bit-part player."
"This is a modern-day Pygmalion with many of the same discomfiting themes," complains the Times' Kate Muir. "The Blind Side has been astonishingly successful in America, even before Sandra Bullock won an Oscar as the Southern belle who takes on a homeless black kid and makes him an American football star. Bullock turns in a terrific, ball-breaking performance. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is painfully patronising."
"The true-life story from which this Oscar-winning movie is taken may well be every bit as inspirational and remarkable as its fans believe it to be," admits our own Peter Bradshaw. "But the film itself is dead from the neck up and the neck down: a Photoshopped image of reality that is bland, parochial, and stereotypically acted by a cast who have nothing like the subtlety and range of Trey Parker's puppets from Team America: World Police.
"Sandra Bullock got her Oscar for playing the tough-love Christian Republican wife and mother who takes in a troubled African-American teen and motivates him to greatness on the football field. There is something weirdly absent about this performance, which seems to have been been co-sponsored by Percodan, with additional vexed walking-and-talking-while-on-cellphone brought to you by Klonopin."
As I mentioned earlier, however, reactions in the US were rather different when the film was released there last year. "Watching The Blind Side is like watching your favourite football team; you'll cheer when things go well, curse when they don't, and be reminded that in football, as in life, it's how you play the game that counts – though winning doesn't hurt, either," wrote Betsy Sharkey in the LA Times. "Bullock is Leigh Anne to such a degree you forget you're watching one of the best-known actresses around. And while her sass is both endearing and highly entertaining, it is the way she masks Leigh Anne's 'never let them see you cry' vulnerability, especially when it comes to Michael – the quick retreats when she's moved, shoulder thrown back, eyes staring straight ahead as she hands out the latest set of marching orders – that leave you cheering for her too."
In terms of tone, The Blind Side is breezy and uncomplicated to the point of vacuity. It reminded me at times of one of those cheesy American family movies about the adoption of an unruly new pet, except that Aaron's Oher exhibits nothing like the range of personality of a Beethoven: he's not so much a gentle giant as a great, hulking void of a character who seems to have almost nothing to say. Bullock certainly dominates the movie, but then nobody else is really given much of a chance in terms of screen time or screenplay. The only other actor to make an impact is Jae Head, who plays her son SJ, and he seems to be in an entirely different movie to everyone else. I think it's Jerry Maguire, as an older, even more sickly-sweet and irritating version of the cute little bespectacled kid who makes Tom Cruise want to stay with Renée Zellweger.
Did you catch The Blind Side at the weekend? Did Bullock deserve her Oscar, or is the Academy guilty here of rewarding a mushy, sugar-coated slice of hokey sentimentality?
1 English 102 Dr. Ramesh The Blind Side: Analyzing the plot of the movie and explaining its positive and negative aspects The Blind Side is a 2009 American semi-biographical sports drama film . It is written and directed by John Lee Hancock , and based on the 2006 book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis . The storyline features Michael Oher , an offensive lineman who plays for the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL . The film follows Oher from his impoverished upbringing, through his years at Wingate Christian School in the suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee , his adoption by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy , and on to his position as one of the most highly coveted prospects in college football . The film itself received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The film stars Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher, Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy, and Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy. Although this film paints a beautiful picture of a great family who stepped in to make a difference, there were a lot of criticisms to their kind-heartedness. For most of his childhood, 17-year-old Michael Oher has been in foster care with different families throughout Memphis, Tennessee . Every time he is placed in a new home, he runs away. His friend's father, whose couch Mike had been sleeping on, asks Burt Cotton, the