Rarely does a movie come along that can draw in men, women, and children. The Blind Side does just that and is turning into the big hit of the holiday season. The film appeals to men because it is about Michael Oher, who plays offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. The film brings in the female audience because of its star, Sandra Bullock. And, the heart warming story makes it a wonderful film to enjoy with the children.
This film has “legs,” meaning that its box office numbers are continuing to grow week to week. Those who have seen the movie recommend it to friends and return to see it again and again. What’s wrong with that?
Some reviewers (and some viewers) have called the film “racist,” critical of the implication that it takes a white family to rescue a young black man from his difficult circumstances. Even though the film is based on a true story, told in Michael Lewis’ book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, for some that true story is, well, too good to be true.
Michael Oher is born to a crack-addicted mother, attends 11 schools by the time he is nine, and is moved in and out of numerous foster homes. Despite a failing academic record, he gains admission to a prestigious private Christian school in Memphis on the strength of his athletic ability. By day, Michael struggles in the classroom. By night, he washes his one shirt in a laundromat and sleeps in the school gym.
Walking to school late one evening, he encounters the Tuohys—Leigh Anne (Bullock), her husband, Sean (Tim McGraw), their daughter, Collins (Lily Collins), and son, SJ (an adorable and hyperactive Jae Head). When Leigh Anne discovers Michael has no place to sleep, she piles him into the SUV and Michael soon finds himself a de facto member of the Tuohy family. Leigh Anne, a steel magnolia if there ever was one, works as a decorator but her main talent is making over people’s lives. In Michael, she finds her most challenging project ever.
Bullock’s Leigh Anne shows her soft side when dealing with her children, a group that begins to include Michael. She treads softly when she senses Michael needs time and space to absorb the changes in his life. But she doesn’t mince words when anyone—her friends, the football coach, drug dealers from Michael’s old neighborhood—threaten her family. (She tells the drug dealers she’s a member of the NRA, a good shot, and always carries).
Quinton Aaron brings a quiet sensitivity to the role of Michael. While he is grateful for the generosity showered on him by the Tuohys, he returns that favor tenfold. There is a graciousness surrounding this young man. He is a survivor, but a survivor who cares about those around him. (In the school aptitude tests, Michael excelled in his desire to protect others, a trait that will soon benefit his goal to safeguard the team’s quarterback).
While some people will continue to focus on the black-white theme of this movie, to do so trivializes Michael Oher’s accomplishments. What governs a person’s destiny—nature or nurture? That question has been examined in research and literature since the beginning of time. True, the Tuohys gave Michael the family and stability he never had. Yet, the essence of what he was existed from the time he was born. Ultimately, that character would have saved Michael, whether he lived with the Tuohys, another white family, or a black family.
That message is what makes this movie the perfect holiday film. In a season that oftentimes focuses too much on the material, we are reminded that the best gift we can give to others is ourselves.