Sunday, December 27, 2009

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The Blind Side

The Blind Side is a bizarre experience. On the one hand, I came away from the movie thinking well of it, reflecting on Bullock's performance with favor. On the other hand, I never found myself completely enthralled during the film itself. Is it that I have grown tired of the sports genre? Is it that, because the subject of the film is playing football currently, there was little suspense to be had? What was in the film that left me wanting?

And then I realized. I mean, I realized it during the film, but I confessed it to myself after the fact: these actors are terribly limited. Not Sandra Bullock, mind. No, she was quite wonderful in the movie, and I can easily understand her Globe and SAG nominations. Here is a no-nonsense Southern gal actually following her Christian values. She reminds me of my aunt, my other aunt and my mother. Certainly, Bullock's performance is no problem.

The supporting cast is quite good, too. Indeed, even Tim McGraw does well, and he's not even an actor. Ray McKinnon and Kathy Bates do what they need to, and are downright charming as they do so. Adriane Lenox's cameo as Michael Oher's biological mother breaks the heart. It is the one scene in the film that I got completely involved in emotionally. She is concerned for the son she hasn't seen, but knows that his life is better without her. Damn fine acting.

Methinks it is the lead. It must certainly have been difficult for writer-director John Lee Hancock and casting director Ronna Kress to find an actor that not only fits the physical requirements, but can also do a passable job of playing the role. Quinton Aaron is not the worst actor I've ever seen, but he's not very good, either. He has all the spirited recitation of a child reading aloud. When one compares his performance to that of another who played a quiet ghetto teen working their way up: Gabourey Sidibe in Precious. And while many have complained that she does not have much to do in the role (which is bull, she is amazing), just one look at Aaron's performance makes her look like Meryl Streep. Not terrible, just terribly dull.

And it's a shame, because so much of the movie works. Hancock has an assured touch and his screenplay is a simple thing that works despite the many instances of Family Banter. You know: the dialogue that's supposed to convince us these actors are a real family. It works some of the time; other times it feels written. Overall, though, the writing is fine. Besides the performances of Aaron and Jae Head, there is little to complain of. Everything is executed just right.

Maybe that's it. It's all too damn pat, like a carefully put-together homemaker catalog. It's a perfectly harmless little film, and that's fine. Not every movie has to be a testament of everything that is art and cinema, like Public Enemies. Not every family film has to have an edge to it like Fantastic Mr. Fox or Where the Wild Things Are. But a movie does have to transport you, to take you into its world and make you live alongside its players. The Blind Side just misses this.

But why not see it? I can't imagine anyone regretting it. I mean, you could do better -- may I recommend Up in the Air? -- but you could do much, much worse.

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