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The young behemoth Michael Oher
Has led a life of silent woe.
For years he has been dumb and poor
With nowhere comforting to go.
But then one night, to his surprise,
A kind white woman lets him in,
Despite his color and his size,
And treats him like a next of kin.
He doesn’t know how to react
But still enjoys the change begun,
While Leigh Anne Tuohy can’t retract
The ever-growing kindness done.
Adopting Michael gradually,
She urges him to be a shield,
Protecting threatened family
And players on the football field.
Encouraged to perform defense,
Oher proves his talent with a block,
And soon the college heads commence
The offers that he join their flock.
He’s pushed by Leigh Anne toward Ole Miss,
Which raises questions of intentions.
Though Mike’s troubled by all this,
His trust in her subdues contentions.
Charity gave Michael Oher
A chance to play, prove, and protect.
When one looked harder than before,
There came a grace none would expect.

The Blind Side is the account of one “random act of kindness” that changed a life and a family forever. It’s also a film that seems to be loved or hated for different reasons.

I personally very much enjoy the uplifting true rags-to-riches tale, but others see what they want to see. Some view the narrative as a white savior story, an indictment on black communities which supposedly cannot rise from poverty without the intercession of benevolent white people. They see strong but mute Michael (played by Quentin Aaron) as an example of the pitiable street kid who can do nothing for himself until some altruistic white benefactor comes to his rescue. Others like me don’t interpret the film’s message as such. In addition to the main crux of the film, some can’t agree on the details too. Sandra Bullock’s performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy was lauded by most critics and earned her a Best Actress Academy Award, but my VC, who likes the rest of the movie, is irritated by her pushiness, audacity, and occasionally provocative attire, a personality type she finds abrasive.

As far as the first assertion, my opinion is as follows: Yes, Michael Oher’s story is conceivably a white savior tale, but those who see it as such are ignoring his contributions to the Tuohy family. As Leigh Anne says in the film, she’s not just changing his life; he’s changing hers, reminding her of what’s important and how blessings are meant to be shared. The film depicts the dangerous, gang-infused neighborhoods that claim so many youths, and as unfortunate as it is, such places do exist, hard-to-escape places that might have consumed Oher as well but for the kindness of strangers. While the Tuohys are shown as overall noble sponsors, their well-to-do world of Christian schools and over-priced restaurants does not escape some criticism for hypocrisy and discrimination. Rather, Leigh Anne’s contributions to Michael’s life open up her own views; she visits areas of town she’d never gone and feels unforeseen guilt at taking for granted the simple things that Michael has never possessed. The film even calls into question her potentially selfish reasoning for committing such a selfless act; like Dr. Treves in The Elephant Man, she wonders how good she truly is when she is clearly benefiting from her own charity. Though she is vindicated, it’s a fair point that other films might have glossed over.

For a film that endorses Christian charity, the acting and production values are top-notch, including cameos from multiple real-life university football coaches like Nick Saban and Lou Holtz. I admire Bullock’s brash, bold, and bossy performance as Mrs. Tuohy, even if it rubs my VC the wrong way. Tim McGraw impresses as a likable Mr. Tuohy, proving that not all singers are doomed to be poor actors, and Kathy Bates is excellent as always, playing Michael’s tutor Miss Sue. Quentin Aaron is perfect as Michael, though his one-note glumness makes me doubt his versatility in future roles. Also (Lost alert!), Kim Dickens, who played Sawyer’s girlfriend Cassidy on my favorite show, portrays Michael’s sympathetic teacher, who is nearly as admirable as Mrs. Tuohy in looking beyond her student’s apparent apathy to help him learn in his own way.

It may err on the controversial side, but The Blind Side is an inspirational family film that doesn’t skimp on the humor and sports action as well. (It wasn’t entirely clear to me, though, why Bullock’s narration connected Michael’s story to Lawrence Taylor; did anyone else understand that?) It’s also one of the few films with a heartwarming familial Thanksgiving scene that makes it ideal viewing for the last Thursday in November. Viewers often see what they want to see in certain films, and what I see in The Blind Side is a motivating challenge to assist and not give up on the underprivileged.

Best line: (Michael, in his end-of-school paper about “The Charge of the Light Brigade”) “But honor, that’s the real reason you either do something or you don’t. It’s who you are and maybe who you want to be. If you die trying for something important, then you have both honor and courage, and that’s pretty good. I think that’s what the writer was saying, that you should hope for courage and try for honor. And maybe even pray that the people telling you what to do have some, too.”

Rank: 58 out of 60

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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