Bullock is the one to watch in 'Blind'


POSTED: Friday, November 20, 2009

This is a true story—no, make that A True Story!—so you can be clubbed over the head a little harder with the artlessly ballyhooed actuality of this tale.

Just the facts: Michael Oher, one of several Tennessee kids of a crack-addicted mother, has grown up on the streets and in foster homes, and my, how he has grown. At age 16 he's a lummox, gigantic and withdrawn, barely surviving.

One night, as Michael is stumbling in the rain and looking for a place to sleep, he's spotted by the wealthy white family of a classmate and invited home. It's a snap decision and a decent, honest one; Sean and Leigh Ann Tuohy wind up keeping him, adopting him and then managing him into a college degree and football career.

Sounds too redemption-driven to be true, but it is. Today, Michael Oher plays guard for the Baltimore Ravens. And you're niggled by suspicion throughout the film—do the Tuohys think of Michael as a kind of cause, a sort of pet, a release valve for white guilt?

There's that other annoyance, too, the notion that the only way out of hard times for an uneducated black kid is through professional sports. But that's what happened; Michael became a football player, not a NASA scientist.

        Rated PG-13
        Opens today in theaters

At another point Leigh Ann says to Michael, “;You know, I never even asked you if you actually liked playing football.”; And Michael replies resignedly, “;Well ... I'm good at it,”; and shrugs. Whatever makes Mom happy.

“;The Blind Side”; is one of those movies that should spark debate yet likely won't, as it plays up to benign impulses that are really societal prejudices. Except for a hellish scene of Michael visiting his old haunts and a political scare late in the film over the Tuohys' motives for adopting Michael—were they plotting for years to mold him into a left guard for their old college alma mater?—is cheerful and uplifting in a way that doesn't feel preachy.

As Michael, plus-size Quinton Aaron is stolid and guarded, as the real kid was, and gradually blooms. We expect that. The movie, however, completely, totally, belongs to Sandra Bullock as Leigh Ann, a dyed-blonde steel magnolia who seems all surface appeal—she's an interior decorator, no less, and crazed about Southern manners and fashionable appearances—yet she's the one who sees right to the heart of a homeless boy stumbling along in the dark and rain. It's an extraordinary, brilliant and subtle performance, particularly after the embarrassment of “;The Proposal,”; and contains all the markers of an Oscar nomination.

“;The Blind Side”; should also be seen and debated by theologians, as it is a living tribute to fundamental Christian motivations, although the point is hammered home with an extraordinarily soft touch: Love thy neighbor.

The real question isn't why the Tuohys opened their door to this needy kid, but why more of us don't.