It sounds preachy. And it might’ve been but for Bullock – funny and feisty – and the genuinely convincing cast. Some might tut at the seeming condescension of a rich white family turning a young black boy into a star. But they’d be wrong. Truth’s more daring than fiction. And this is a true story.
Big Mike is an unloved teenager who attends school but sleeps rough. Quiet, kind and physically huge, Mike stands out but copes awkwardly with attention. When Leigh Anne’s kids befriend him at school, she gives him a bed for the night. Then her bustling humanity can’t turn him out. A boy’s about to become a man. But at what cost to Leigh Anne’s own family?
Packed with cracking scenes, The Blind Side has drama, character and humour aplenty. And Bullock’s ballsy performance is behind most of it. Whether berating rednecks for attacking her boy or giving a pep-talk to a failing football squad, Bullock’s blonde-haired dynamo delivers some great one-liners. Believably too.
Country singer and star Tim McGraw is spot-on as her supportive husband. And big Quinton Aaron is pitch perfect as the troubled teen, emerging from shuffling shy-boy to bone-crunching football pro. Nuanced performances all-round make this a detailed, credible film.
Bullock’s always been brilliant at comedy. And underrated for her serious roles. But her cameo in racial drama Crash was revelatory – fractious, dark and deep: a real person. And The Blind Side is the first film to bring the two sides of Sandra together – hence the Oscar.
And yet it’s not as appealing as it might have been. American culture usually crosses over okay. But the intricacies of American football (like the tactical ‘blind side’ of the title) and the college-scholarship rules bog you down. Gloss over that, let the universal humanity grab you, and it’s a satisfying journey.
Doing for touchdowns what Invictus did for rugby, the sports sequences are superbly, shudderingly shot. But it’s The Blind Side’s big, beating heart which carries you through to the end-zone. And to an end-credit montage showing the real Leigh Anne and Michael.
A mature, engaging movie then. And thanks to Bullock, there’s a touch of brilliance too.