The Blind Side (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Blind Side</strong> (2009)

(On TV, March 2012) Some movies just rub me the wrong way, not matter how skillfully they’re made and how upbeat they can be.  Seen from far away on paper, The Blind Side is pure movie-of-the-week stuff: A desperately poor and lonely teenager is rescued by the unbelievable kindness of strangers and goes on to earn some success in sports.  But then you pile up the extras, increasingly the misery of the protagonist, making sure the rescuing strangers are kinder than virtue itself, ensuring that the sport is all-American football and topping it off with “this is based on a true story”.  The film itself is well-made: Sandra Bullock plays her age well as a charming southern belle who decides to rescue the disadvantaged teenager; dialogues are occasionally very funny; technical credentials are just fine and the film ends on a note of unabashed optimism.  The Blind Side earned accolades all the way up to an Oscar nomination, made tons of money and it’s almost disgusting to criticize a real-life true story like this one.  And yet… it’s not that difficult to be troubled by the portrait of a rich white family rescuing a traumatized black child.  There’s an element of unctuous Caucasian paternalism there that overshadows the rest of the film’s virtues, and being the whitest guy I know doesn’t change the cringe-inducing way the film portrays the issue. (Compare and contrast with Precious.) I’m just as uneasy about the way The Blind Side seems to be courting mainstream audience approval with its repeated devotion to religion, football, family and other traditional values.  It certainly doesn’t help that the film seems adapted from a very small portion of Michael Lewis’ far more cerebral eponymous book, and that its structure seem built on a series of short dramatic loops, suddenly introduced and quickly resolved.  Every character seems nice, every passing difference can be overcome after a conversation or two and the film seems unwilling to tackle any serious issue along the way.  It works, but it seems so deliberately paternalistic that I can’t buy into it.

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