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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Blind Side

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Jacqueline Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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The Blind Side

Based on the Michael Lewis book, this is the true story of Michael Oher, (Quinton Aaron) a virtually homeless teen, taken in, adopted and transformed into a gifted, college-bound football star by a wealthy Memphis family, spearheaded by the formidable Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock).

Aside from Leigh Anne, the Tuohys consist of her amiable, low-key husband Sean (Tim McGraw) daughter Collins (Lily Collins) and uber-precocious son S.J. (Jae Head). They live in a house grand enough to be called an estate. We learn from S.J. that his dad “owns like a million Taco Bells.”

The family has major bucks and happen upon Michael one night walking in the rain on his way to the community gym (for the heat) after washing his one pair of shorts by hand at the laundromat.

Leigh Anne is moved into action. Inviting the teen to spend the night turns into him staying indefinitely and finally having his own room. “Never had one,” says the shy, hesitant Michael, to which Leigh Anne responds, “Your own room?” “A bed,” Michael replies, stunning his benefactor into a shocked silence and sobering glance. The polarity and disparity of the two lifestyles (Michael and the Tuohys) is almost too stark a contrast to comprehend at first glance.

Leigh Anne is a strong-willed go-getter who is good at exhorting, whether it’s her daughter’s volleyball performance or a cause she believes in. Leigh Anne believes in Michael. The Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) graduate would like to see Michael and her alma mater prosper. In that order.

There are naysayers along the way that Leigh Anne vanquishes like a crusader, using a tough charm and downright stubbornness. Her tough exterior is tenderized by Michael’s history, some of which she gets directly from his crack-addicted mother Denise (Adriane Lenox).

Leigh Anne’s be-all-you-can-be attitude begins to mold Michael into a skilled and confident young adult. Even his football moves are tentative until he’s made to realize the team is like a representation of the family he loves. Then his protective instinct takes over and he’s unstoppable.

Colleges begin to take notice, but Michael is struggling academically. The Tuohys hire private tutor Miss Sue (Kathy Bates) to immerse Michael in his studies, proving even to him that he has what it takes.

A pseudo-villain takes shape in the form of an NCAA investigator who suspects that Michael’s being used for the glorification of the alma mater of wealthy alumni, able to buy talent. Despite this development, conflict is minimal and mostly internal, centered around Michael’s harrowing back story. Leigh Anne never wavers in her belief in the young man, weathering advice from friends, a near tragic accident, and a stacked deck of doubting teachers skeptical about Michael’s ability to learn.

Michael ultimately triumphs personally and professionally, but The Blind Side allows us to see how with a minimum of sentimentality and a maximum of faith in the human ability to achieve, share, forgive, and triumph in the face of adversity.

Sandra Bullock, in a snap-your-head-back performance, pulls off the humor and guts from within a blond, pampered façade with a ferocious sincerity most apparent in her eyes. Tim McGraw has a quiet likability and a natural charm that serves his character, a husband used to taking the backseat to his force of nature wife, quite well. Jae Head steals a few scenes with his own exhortations to his new “big brother.”

Newcomer Quinton Aaron has few lines and is slow and sedentary in thought and movement, bringing an honest reticence to the part.

Director John Lee Hancock (The Rookie) knows how to make a close up meaningful without a lot of words, letting the facts tell the story, and injecting humor to lift any clinging gravitas.

There are cameo appearance by famous college coaches, but especially gratifying are the photos of the real family, including Michael that show up before the end credits. Additional footage of Michael Oher being drafted (1st Round) by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL Draft brings the story right up to the present.

Oh yes, the title refers to the 1985 Theismann injury (he got blindsided by NY Giants tackle Lawrence Taylor) that changed football, highlighting the power of such a maneuver and paving the way for talent like Michael Oher's.

The title may be The Blind Side but the message is an eye-opener.

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