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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jan 31, 2010

The Blind Side

THE PAST YEAR was a productive one for Sandra Bullock. She did one flop, "All About Steve", but has two hits to her credit: the rom-com "The Proposal" and the inspirational true story "The Blind Side", for which she already won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild best actress awards.

This is the story of Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), who's selected in the first round of last year's National Football League draft by the Baltimore Ravens. The film shows how he started as an aimless behemoth of a teenager who is accepted in the exclusive Wingate Christian school in Memphis because of his potential as a football player. The government took him away from his drug-addict of a mother when he was still a child and he's practically homeless. The coach (Ray McKinnon) thinks he'll be great on the offensive line but the trouble is he does badly in academics so he's not qualified to be a school athlete. But the science teacher (Kim Dickens) takes note that even if doesn't participate in class, Oher is obviously absorbing the things being taught to him in class. She stands up by him and is later proven right.

One very cold rainy night, he's wandering in the streets in just at T-shirt when Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock), an interior designer, sees him and takes pity on him. She knows him because her kids, the wisecracking boy SJ (Jae Head) and the teenaged Collins (Lily Collins), also go to his school. She asks her husband Sean (Tim McGraw), a restaurant franchise owner, to stop the car and asks Michael to get in. They take him home and gives him a place to sleep.

Michael eventually becomes a part of the Touhy family. He resists at first, but Leigh Ann takes him to his mom's home in the housing projects and he learns she has been evicted. Leigh Ann finds the mother, Denise (Adriane Lenox), to seek legal guardianship. With the kindness of strangers, Michael's academic standing then gets better and he finally gets the chance to show his athletic talent that eventually makes him a football star.

Michael might appear as the lead character in this story but the film makes the Leigh Anne role as substantial and challenging as his. Quinton is fairly convincing as Michael, the gentle giant, but Sandra inhabits Leigh Anne perfectly and makes it her own, dyeing her brown hair blonde and mixing maternal love with a certain toughness and vulnerability to make it a very winning character who dominates the film. She helps Michael not because of his potential as a top athlete but simply because she wants to reach out to another human being who is suffering. She shines in that scene where she gives Michael a motivational talk that compares protecting the quarterback with the way she protects her own kids. Tim as her indulgent husband and the tot stars who play their kids provide touching support and even comic relief. Kathy Bates also does well as Michael's scene-stealing private tutor who helps improve his grades.

Writer-Director John Lee Hancock ("The Rookie", "The Alamo") adopted the film from the biographical book by Michael Lewis with its heart in the right place. It starts on the right foot with Leigh Ann narrating some facts over actual footage showing the real Oher in action as he makes a tackle to protect his quarterback's blind side. The film could have resorted to sentimental cliches usually resorted to in this kind of rags-to-riches story but Hancock obviously shuns that, even combining the emotional moments with comedy.

That scene showing the reunion between Michael and his biological mom could have been filmed in a more mawkish way that could manipulate the viewer's emotions but this is wisely avoided. It doesn't even have a villainous character that can provide more conflict and triumph for Michael. All in all, it's a heartwarming film about an underdog that triumphs over adversity and manages to be so without being sappy or cloying. It's a real feel-good crowdpleaser so it's not surprising that it has become a monster hit through word of mouth endorsement, giving it strong legs at the tills that have made it raked in about $235 million so far.