The Blind Side

Though based on the true story of rookie Baltimore Ravens tackle, Michael Oher, the lead character in the movie version is Memphis homemaker played by Sandra Bullock.

In this way the movie not only has a bankable star to bring in the audience, but it also allows the story to touch mostly on the more pleasant parts of the black teenager’s life–the time after he was “rescued” by the white family. His miserable childhood is seen only in brief, sanitized flashbacks. So be it.

Another reality check is that the child saved in this story is a 6’3″, 340-pound behemoth male teenager, a potential candidate for sports. I doubt a huge black girl child would have received the same attention, even with a nod to Precious, starring an obese teenage girl, that is getting rave reviews everywhere.

These comments are not meant to diminish the value of Michael Oher’s struggle, nor the love his adoptive white family gave him, it’s just to point out that the good fortune he enjoyed would never have occurred if he were born a girl.

As played by Bullock, Leigh Ann Touhy is a feisty, sexy, smart-mouthed Memphis belle who clings to honesty as if it’s the last great Southern accessory. Strict mother, loving wife, a terrific interior decorator, and most importantly, she’s a Christian who acts like one. This aspect of her is downplayed in this mainstream movie, but one of the bright spots of the story is that The Blind Side portrays a woman who does indeed apply Christian principles to her life, as much as she finds that possible. She doesn’t preach, nor does she dole out her kindness with strings attached. She listens, she takes action and she makes quick exits. A fantasy perhaps? But Leigh Ann Touhy sure makes the best movie role model that’s come along in ages.

The Touhy family includes Dad, played with utter blandness by country star Tim McGraw; teenage daughter Collins (Lilly Collins, musician Phil Collins’ daughter) and S.J. (Jae Head), a mischievous elementary school scene-stealer.

One night the family spots a homeless teenager, Michael (Quinton Aaron) walking along the road in the rain, heading for the school gymnasium where he intends to sleep. Michael has been given a scholarship to attend the Christian school where the Touhy children also go, but no one seems to have thought about how he might live his life outside of school. Horrified, Leigh Ann insists that he spend the night in their home and makes a bed for him on the sofa. In the morning, the boy has fled, but he’s left the linens neatly folded on the sofa–the sign to Leigh Ann that Michael is special.

What follows is a love story between the Touhy family and Michael, full of the fits and starts of all love stories, the ups and downs, the misunderstandings, the hugs that solve everthing.

At first, Michael’s size delights the school’s football coach who has visions of the new boy taking the school to the regional finals. Alas, Michael doesn’t know anything about football strategy and the coach thinks yelling is the proper way to change behavior. So Leigh Ann steps in, gives Michael the magic cues he needs — to think of the team as his family, which means he will protect them with his life — and step by step, with S.J.’s heroic worship, Michael learns to make the football field his own domain, to always defend his team’s blind side.

Then there’s that other stumbling block to sports success–Michael must be literate to make it into college. So Mrs. Touhy hires a private tutor for him and under Miss Sue’s (Kathy Bates) relentless tutelage, Michael not only learns to read, but to write essays. He graduates with an unbelievable 2.52–enough to get him a scholarship to Ole Miss.

Michael’s remaining real-life obstacles–a crack addicted mother, vengeful homeboys, college recruiters who promise him the sky, NCAA investigators who question his commitment–add necessary notes of realism to the story. Director/writer John Lee Hancock (The Alamo) shamelessly pulls out all the emotional buttons, which could make some people cringe, but I for one love a good heart-tugger, so I went with it and kept the Kleenex handy. Crying in a movie is something I never feel guilty about.

Mostly though, I wanted to applaud, for Michael and his quiet dignity, and for the white family that bucked their society and did the right thing.

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