Deborah Ross

Sentimental journey

The Blind Side<br /> 12A, Nationwide

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The Blind Side

12A, Nationwide

The Blind Side — or ‘The Blahnd Sahd’, as they would say in Tennessee — is so ghastly and annoying and creepy I implore you to steer well clear. I know, I know, it’s based on a true story, Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her performance, and it’s already made $265 million at the US box office, so why should you listen to me? No reason. No reason at all. Mostly, I don’t listen to me and I am me! But I do think you should know this: beneath the swelling music and push-button, Hallmark-style sentimentality, this film is basically about a rich, white, pleased-with-itself family who drag around a poor black boy as if he were some kind of sad old circus bear. Or, as we say in Crouch End, ‘It’s a horrible, my lovelies; quite, quite horrible.’

Adapted from a book by Michael Lewis, and directed by John Lee Hancock, who, at film school, appears to have majored in The Hackneyed Reaction Shot, this is the real story of Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), or at least should be, but it actually isn’t. It’s the story of that rich, white, Christian family, the Tuohy family, who live in a swanky house — swagged curtains; you’ve never seen such swagging in curtains! — in Memphis and take in Michael when no one else wants him. Michael is big, black, 17, homeless and has learning difficulties, but with the Tuohys’ help he makes it through high school and becomes an all-American college football player. Michael plays in the ‘blind side’ position, whatever that is. There is quite a lot of American football in the film, and I don’t really get it. Is there more to it than just these huge fellas putting on helmets, charging at each other, crashing heads, falling over, getting up and starting all over? There doesn’t seem to be. I prefer ice-dancing, but each to their own.

Anyway, the Tuohys are Sean (Tim McGraw), a fast-food franchise millionaire, and his wife Leigh Anne (Bullock). Leigh Anne was once Sean’s college cheerleading sweetheart but is now an interior decorator, and a seemingly successful one. Obviously, the news that swagged curtains went out of fashion in 1987 or thereabouts hasn’t reached Tennessee yet. And they live, in that swanky, swagged house, with their two children: a teenage daughter, Collins (played by Lily Collins, who must be pleased she wasn’t called Collins, because then she’d be Collins Collins), and her little brother, Sean Jr (Jae Head), the most smackable movie kid I’ve seen in a long time, and I say that as someone who doesn’t even believe in smacking children. (Why smack a child when there are so many alternatives? Why not just hang them by their ankles in the cellar instead?) Now, I do like Sandra Bullock. In fact, I like her very much. I like her nose and her spirit. I like her despite the terrible rom-coms, for which she earns $25 million a pop, God bless her. But her performance as Leigh Anne is hardly Oscar worthy. It’s not even a stretch. This is the sort of thing Meryl Streep could knock out before breakfast, and perhaps even while brushing her teeth.

Leigh Anne just has to look hot at all times while being sassy and bossy and putting her snooty friends in their place, employing cliché after cliché to do so. Seriously, if there’s a Clichés R Us on some ring road in Memphis, then Leigh Anne emptied it. OK, here’s a little quiz for you. When one of Leigh Anne’s snooty friends says to her, ‘You are changing that boy’s life,’ what does Leigh Anne say in return? Is it a) ‘True dat, true dat,’ because she’s been watching a lot of The Wire lately or b) ‘What, swagging’s out? Since when?’ or c) ‘No, he is changing mine.’ If you answered a or b then I can only say ‘I wish’ but, of course, it was c. And although not meant ironically, it is ironic all the same, as Leigh Anne goes on no journey whatsoever. 

And Michael? Michael doesn’t really figure in all this. Michael is a big hulk, but he is also a big empty husk. His present, inner life is anyone’s guess, pretty much. His past life, meanwhile, is shown in brief flashbacks that peddle every black stereotype going. Michael is not a character, but a mirror in which the Tuohys can further admire themselves. This is a horrid film, and I hated it, and while, I suppose, you can’t argue with a true story, you can always argue with the way it is told. Steer well clear but, if you can’t, don’t come running to me. You will find no sympathy round my house; none at all.