January 22, 2010

Movie Review: The Blind Side

It's hard for me to watch movies based on books that I've read - too easy to nitpick all the plot differences. It's even more difficult when the book is based on a true story, where those plot differences - supposedly essential to making a movie extra movie-like - compromise someone's actual life story. So, it was with skepticism that I went into 'The Blind Side', a movie based on one of the better books I've read in the last 5 years (and it takes quite the compelling storytelling to invest me in football).

While the book weaves a narrative of the modern day NFL, including backstory on teams, coaches and positions, inside tidbits on salary, and explanation of how it all works, the film leaves [most of] that out - really, it should have left out all of it - Sandra Bullock talking about Lawrence Taylor at the beginning was distracting, disparate and totally unnecessary.

The movie's main strength was its entertainment value. If it cut some corners, summarized some character development or oversimplified, it felt at least productive to the overall story. And the overall story is, afterall, a fairy tale: Some kid, poorer than poor, who has been shuffled around the foster care and public school system so much by the time that he's 15 that he hardly knows how to read, much less comprehend high school subjects or regular social interaction, gets befriended, then taken in, then adopted by a wealthy family and winds up as a starter for the NFL? How could you improve on that?

I imagine it's somewhat insulting to the rest of the Tuohy family who gave as much as Sandra Bullock's Leigh Anne to have been so disregarded in the film. The daughter was demoted a grade or two (in reality, she and Michael graduated in the same class), the son was made extra precocious (as if a 10-year old coaching him would actually give him , and Tim McGraw really could have had some more barbeque stain on his white t-shirt: His Sean Tuohy was made a supporting role throughout it all while in the book, he's the first connection to Michael).

That being said, the main problems with the movie came from outside the Tuohy family: the recruitment scenes were plain cheese (It should be a rule for the future of filmmaking that college football coaches never be allowed to play themselves...even though the main recruiter, being played by an actor, was even worse.), and Michael's high school football coach was at times painful to watch. He was played with such over the top facial expressions, I felt like I was in a wax museum. It was as if the actor given the part found out that the coach turns out to be kind of a fame-mongering twat, and, in a bad page from the pre-Eternal Sunshine school of Jim Carrey acting, just decided to use his mouth and cheekbones to convey expressions. "Here, in this shot you're shocked!" "Okay, now, be angry!"

There's not much to discuss aside from the plot; the movie certainly didn't reinvent the filmmaking wheel. But, while it exaggerated some places (Sandra Bullock telling off a housing project thug) and skipped out on some great book moments (Sean Jr. taking a part of scholarship negotiations, it got to the heart of the story and told it with believable, not-entirely-cheesy conviction. 7.5 Twix bars!


Doug said...

We saw it last night and NOW I'm going to read the book. Not sure if I will like the order of that, but we'll see. While her acting was good, I really found Sandra Bullock's character just a tad unbelievable. No, more than a tad. "Supermom" - OK, I get that, but there was a disconnect for me between the really irritating demanding, obnoxious person willing, eager even, to impose her will on everyone around her and this sweet, caring Christian woman who almost walks on water. The more I write this the more I get the feeling I'm going to like the book a lot more.

Doug said...

And one other thing........ That mansion must have had 10 bedrooms so what's with making Michael sleep on the sofa in the first place? That was lame....