Release Date: Out Now
Director: John Lee Hancock
Writers: Hancock (screenplay), Michael Lewis (novel)
Cinematographer: Alar Kivilo
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron
Studio/Runtime: Warner Bros., 128 mins.
The Taylor Swift of Oscar nominees
This is the story of a blonde female on the bleachers. And if you’re thinking of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me,” you’re wrong—but you’re close. The Blind Side, another seemingly innocuous story set in Tennessee, is also less about sports and more about relationships. And despite the rising acclaim of their artistic adversaries, both the film and Swift remain crowd favorites.
But there’s one major difference. Thanks to “You Belong With Me” and its other Top 10 singles, Fearless has already earned Swift her crowning achievement: a Grammy for Album of the Year, and a backlash involving a comparison to Wonderbread. For the Academy Awards, The Blind Side faces a similar level of competition. The other contenders for Best Picture are bolder and more daring, like Beyoncé and Lady Gaga—the very artists Swift beat out for that Grammy.
The Blind Side tells the true rags-to-riches story of Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher’s (Quinton Aaron in his first major role) adolescence in Memphis. The plot revolves around a proverb cited twice in the film: that people are like onions. And as the film reveals more details of Oher and his tumultuous past, peeling back layer after layer of this 18-year-old boy, it becomes clear why Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) ultimately takes him in. And as the film shows Oher gaining a bed, an education, and numerous offers for football scholarships, the pained expression of Aaron’s face eventually evolves into a toothy grin—one that will likely spread across your face as well.
But in the process you’ll also be waiting to get hit—blindsided, even—by a defining moment, one that shows why The Blind Side is worthy of an Academy Award. That moment never comes.
Bullock is now a Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee thanks to this film, though looking to her doesn’t help matters. As Oher is reborn, Tuohy maintains her role as the Upstanding Christian Mom. She claims to her friends that the boy changed her life, yet Bullock’s severe case of onscreen lockjaw puts the lie to that statement. And the film’s biggest loose end in character development—precisely how Tuohy came to be such a saint—is never resolved. She’s little more than a household drill sergeant who dons neutrals lighter than the military’s trademark BDUs. She, like her cheeky son S.J. (Jae Head) is reduced to a caricature, a role hardly deserving of those accolades.
Some (non-fiction writers, most likely) say that the best stories cannot be made up, and The Blind Side is proof positive of that. But there’s no reason why it should beat out the other Best Picture nominees; not the one that created a new standard for CGI (Avatar); made a senior citizen the leading man of a children’s flick (Up); or annihilated Adolf Hitler (Inglourious Basterds). It’s a film that deserves praise, but for being mild-tempered, family-friendly fare—not for being revolutionary in any way, and not in the form of an Academy Award. It is, at best, a hefty serving of comfort food. And it tastes like Wonderbread.