“The ideal left tackle is big... He is wide in the butt and massive in the thighs. He has long arms, giant hands, and feet as quick as a hiccup. This is a rare and expensive combination.”
With all the glitz and glam of the Oscars rapped up for another year it's time for us Brits to finally get a look at one of the two best picture nominated films that so far haven't made their way East. The Blind Side, the true story of the NFL rag to riches tale that is Michael Oher's career, is a film that normally would be resigned to the few multiplexes which have one too many screens to fill with additional Avatar screenings. You see for all the things we have in common with our cross-Atlantic friends, sports is not one of them. Without the bait of the best picture and actress nominations would this American Football biopic be good enough to lure UK audiences?
I'm personally a sucker for sports movies, however good or bad the narrative is I'm always drwan to them. Having played team sports for many years the slightest moment of comradeship on screen is normally enough to get my adrenaline pumping more than any Cameron action flick, and emotionally move me to the same level that any Tarkovsky film ever has. No truer was this than the masterfully made 2004 film 'Friday Night Lights', also starring musician Tim McGraw, the true story of a highschool football teams journey to the state championships. Needless to say I was expecting much the same from The Blind Side.
The Story of Michael Ohre, now a Offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, starts with a young man growing up virtually abandoned in the poverty stricken projects of Memphis. That was though until he crossed paths with Leigh Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) a successful mother of two who for want of a better expression, lives on the right side of the tracks. She takes in the young man, offering him a roof over his head and as time goes by a lot more, including an opportunity to finally put his god given abilities, and size to good use on the field by playing football for the local christian school. Family and Football were the two things Michael Oher had never experienced, but ultimately they would be the two things that would change his life forever, leading to a sports scholarship and as we now know a successful career with one of the heavyweights of American Football.
Setting a film around a true story can always be tricky. People expect to see the truth, yet still demand to be entertained. However as we all know, the truth can sometimes not be quite as entertaining for an audience as it was for those who lived it. Commendably The Blind Side does stay fairly true to it's source material (Although Oher is said to be a little disheartened at how he has been portrayed as somewhat 'simple') , however this firm stance results in 'The Blind Side' lacking any real bite, that non US sports fans will be hoping for amongst the wash of Americanisms and football slang. Bullocks performance may well be worth of an Academy award, as her depiction of the classic deep south wasp is impeccable, but unfortunately it's not enough to save a film that lacks the kind of punch you'd expect from a best picture nominee. Instead it uses trademark cinematic tricks to tug at your heart strings. Occasionally the film achieves this with fair accuracy, especially in the scene when young Oher is presented with his first ever bed. However when these emotionally tipped bullets miss, you'll feel like a quarterback wishing for Michael Oher's defensive tackle to protect you from yet another barrage of clichéd, wretch educing moments that'll have you reaching for the bucket rather than the tissues. A great character piece but as a heart-warming movie attempting to expose the racial, social and economic problems that are rife within Americas society, especially the wealth gap between the poverty stricken and the very rich it misses the ten yard mark by quite some distance.