While terrorism thrillers may be high on Hollywood’s to-do list lately, movies about escape from the rumored terrors of ghetto life by unusually large people, may not be far behind.
Following on the heels of Precious, and the rescue mission by indignant welfare and educational authorities of that young eating disorder sex abuse victim whose multiple lifelong predicaments apparently went unnoticed until filmmaker Lee Daniels’ camera started rolling, is The Blind Side. Though subbing this time around for Mariah Carey’s vigilante welfare worker, is Sandra Bullock as a frantic southern belle socialite bent on saving a troubled obese teen from his own community of nothing but assorted crooks and crackheads.
And though Precious is pure fiction while the biopic The Blind Side is not, but maybe should be, they both share a common disgust for inner city impoverished lives, and flight of the fittest rather than social remedies, that seem to dominate the national conversation right now. Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie) and based on Michael Lewis’ 2006 bestseller The Blind Side: Evolution Of A Game, the film stars Quinton Aaron as real life Baltimore Ravens football star, Michael Oher. As a homeless black Memphis youth in his earlier teen years, Oher is reluctantly accepted into the all white Briarcrest Christian School, after a fatherly friend pressures them to admit him.
Severely withdrawn, understandably alienated and barely literate, Oher conceals the fact that he’s homeless with only the clothes on his back, and essentially lives at the local all-night laundromat. When Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), wife of a local fast food tycoon, spots her daughter’s classmate wandering around aimlessly in the night rain, she takes the hulking teen home to live with her family in their sumptuous McMansion. And she’s soon priming him for football fame as a kind of pet project, when not discovering that yes, there is a seedy side of town where other unfortunates reside. Though all of them, including Oher’s crack addicted mother, are much too despicable or depraved to similarly bother saving.
Though The Blind Side excels at expressing the profound maternal affection and protective instincts Tuohy develops for this lost young soul, other troubling matters that come to light are skimmed over, and never quite resolved with dramatic assurance. In particular, the formal charges that were eventually leveled against Tuohy and Oher’s high school football coach Hugh Freeze, by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. And essentially, that the boy was being financially exploited by this family seeking legal guardianship over him. Along with Freeze, who eventually got a paid position at the college, where both pressured for his matriculation as a student participant in football.
Eventually Freeze was found in ethical violation, though the movie avoids a deeper exploration of rampant exploitation of ghetto youth in sports. A far better film this year that tackles those issues head on, is the Anna Boden/Ryan Fleck candid Dominican baseball drama indie, Sugar.
In any case, The Blind Side might have scored a touchdown simply for the richness of its characters, save for a concluding scene that counts as a serious fumble, not to mention tasteless in the extreme. When Leigh Anne packs Mike off to freshman year at his primarily white college, she warns him in the presence of her grade school son and when noticing that he’s ogling the coeds, that if he gets any girl pregnant there, ‘I’m going to cut off your penis.’ Considering the horrific history of black male castration for trumped up sexual and other offenses over there on Deep South turf, it’s more than a little like say, telling a Jewish foster kid in your care, that if you’re a bad boy, I’m throwing you into the oven. Blind Side, indeed.