Why can’t we all just get along?

Os­car win­ner San­dra Bul­lock is per­fectly cast in this sen­ti­men­tal but af­fect­ing drama about bridg­ing the racial di­vide, writes Joe Grif­fin

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

WHEN DOES a trend be­come a trend? The Hol­ly­wood­ites who make movies may be mostly lib­eral, but con­ser­va­tives go to the cin­ema too. Dear John, a ro­man­tic weepy about a pa­tri­otic sol­dier, re­placed Avatar at the top of the US box-of­fice. And The Blind Side, an agree­able US main­stream drama about a kind Repub­li­can, is the crown­ing glory in San­dra Bul­lock’s ca­reer, bag­ging her a best ac­tress Os­car and mak­ing more than $250 mil­lion at the tills.

Bul­lock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a well-to-do Mem­phis belle. Her un­event­ful life of ex­pen­sive lunches and chauf­feur­ing her chil­dren takes an un­ex­pected turn when she meets Michael Oher (Quin­ton Aaron). The only black stu­dent in the lo­cal high school, Michael, ne­glected by his par­ents, sleeps on a neigh­bour’s couch and keeps his one spare shirt in a plas­tic bag. When Leigh Anne sees him out walk­ing one evening, she in­vites him to stay in her home.

This hulk­ing, vir­tu­ally si­lent teenager is ini­tially a medi­ocre stu­dent and pas­sive ath­lete, barely able to fol­low the ba­sics of Amer­i­can foot­ball. But Leigh Anne no­tices his pro­tec­tive in­stincts and en­cour­ages him to de­fend his team­mates’ blind side.

Di­rec­tor and co-scripter John Lee Han­cock (who also wrote Kevin Cost­ner’s un­der­rated A Per­fect World) has cre­ated a tale of two cities: In rich Mem­phis, The Good Sa­mar­i­tan deeds of Leigh Anne and her fam­ily are looked upon with un­der­stand­able be­wil­der­ment. And the film ac­knowl­edges that some white par­ents would be un­com­fort­able tak­ing a young black man to live in the same house as their teenage daugh­ter.

An­other un­com­fort­able truth is play­fully re­ferred to when Michael’s home tu­tor (Kathy Bates) re­veals her po­lit­i­cal lean­ings. As Leigh Anne’s hus­band com­ments, “Who would’ve thought that we’d have a black son be­fore we’d meet a Demo­crat?”

Some scenes are less than con­vinc­ing. By far the least plau­si­ble scene has Leigh Anne con­fi­dently (and without reper­cus­sions) driv­ing her fancy car to the ghetto and threat­ens a gang to leave Michael alone.

The Blind Side is sen­ti­men­tal and a lit­tle too long, but it’s also sin­cere and well-told. In the tough but good-hearted Leigh Anne, Bul­lock has found a per­fect fit; a well­writ­ten char­ac­ter that sits nicely be­tween the feisty roles that put her on the A-list (Speed, The Net) and the ro­man­tic come­dies that have kept her there.

All in the fam­ily: Jae Head, Quin­ton Aaron and San­dra Bul­lock

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