Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Premise: The true story of Michael Oher, a homeless African American teenage boy who was adopted by an affluent white family and later became an NFL player.
What Works: The Blind Side is a well-intended, non-confrontational story. Once (or if) a viewer can come around to the film’s naïve take on race and class, the film is enjoyable as a big budget version of a Lifetime network movie. The Blind Side has no intention of rocking the boat and it recapitulates a Cinderella story. Sandra Bullock plays the matriarch of the white family and she delivers a lot of moxie to a role that might have been a phoned in performance by a lesser actress. In the better moments of the film, Quinton Aaron is impressive as Michael Oher and he does a lot of subtle acting with his posture and facial expressions.
What Doesn’t: While The Blind Side goes out of its way to be altruistic, the film is also extraordinarily flat. Despite its attempt to be diversity friendly, The Blind Side actually finds itself falling into very familiar racial characterizations of both whites and blacks. The African Americans fall into the same familiar binaries, with Oher as the noble minority who needs to be saved by assimilation into the white culture and his friends and associates of the projects are the familiar kinds of threatening gangbanger stereotypes. Similarly, the whites of the film fall into two categories: the affluent family members who have no prejudicial bones in their bodies and the racist, blue collar, beer drinking rednecks. This kind of over-simplistic handling of a complex subject makes the film condescending toward the audience and the lack of anything transformative in the characters removes the possibility of drama and robs the film of heroes who are actually heroic.
Bottom Line: The Blind Side is vacant entertainment. The film is an amusing diversion but it runs afoul in its oversimplified and patronizing take on race and class issues.
Episode: #269 (December 20, 2009)