Radio 11.27.09
 
This is Ron Salfen, “At the Movies,” and here’s my commentary on a film opening this week at The Majestic Theater in Greenville :
 
            This is my favorite role for Sandra Bullock.  “The Blind Side” is not a romantic comedy, and she’s not trying too hard to be cute or funny or clumsy or charming.  She plays Leigh Anne Touhy, a strong-willed Memphis socialite with a perfectly nattering husband, Sean (perfectly second-fiddled by country music star Tim McGraw), a cute little teenage daughter (also appropriately underplayed, by the real-life daughter of singer Phil Collins), and a freckle-faced boy named S.J. (veteran child actor Jae Head).  Everybody knows that Momma rules this roost.  What she says goes, and what she decides stands.  And that goes from turning off the television at Thanksgiving dinner to taking in strays from the street.
            Actually, Michael Oher (played with flawless gentle-giant sincerity by Quinton Aaron) wasn’t technically homeless.  It’s just that his Mom was strung out on crack again, and he didn’t know where his Dad was.  The coach, seeing him on a playground, prevails upon the admissions committee of a prominent private school to live up to their reputation as “Christian.”  But “Big Mike” finds himself in this pristine environment where everything looks very white to him:  from the color of the walls to the color of the people he sees.  He’s not dumb.  But nobody’s pushed him to study before, so his reading and writing skills are very limited, as is his general academic knowledge.  It’s difficult to take on algebra without a solid foundation in arithmetic.  It’s not easy to discuss literature without a good background in grammar.  He just sort of wanders through his day, shuffling over to the Laundromat afterwards to wash his alternate set of shorts and t-shirt.  Or he might shamble on over to the gym to watch girls volleyball, or whatever they happen to be doing.  At least it’s warm there, and safe.
            Leigh Anne spots Michael wandering around in the cold in shorts and a t-shirt, and invites him to their house.  Michael had never seen anything so palatial before.  At first, he sleeps on the couch in the living room.  But after a few nights, when it’s clear that he really has no other place to go (his Mom’s been evicted again, and he doesn’t know where she is), Leigh Anne moves him to the guest room.  Strong poignant moment here, when he says, “I’ve never had one of these before.”  She asks, “What, your own room?”
He replies, “No.  My own bed.”  And she stands there, speechless.
            Now her luncheons with the country club ladies seem pretty frivolous.  She’s an interior designing consultant by trade, but all her clientele are well-off, like her.  She’s being introduced to a side of life---and a side of town---that she had no idea even existed.  She’d just been happily ensconced in her affluent suburban bubble, oblivious to a lot of aching need around her.  But not any more.
            She wrangles with his teachers, urging them to give him oral tests instead of written ones.  She even elbows her way into football practice, explaining to “Big Mike” exactly what he’s supposed to do, when the coach couldn’t seem to get through to him.  (The movie begins with a football retrospective, a replay of that heartrending event on Monday Night Football, when linebacker Lawrence Taylor blindsides quarterback Joe Thiesmann, breaking his leg so severely that he never plays football again.  This prompted some rule changes, and also places a premium on a big, hulking left offensive tackle who can protect his quarterback from being hit “on the blind side.”)
            Yes, nonviolent “Big Mike” turns out to be an outstanding offensive lineman, once his protective instincts are invoked.  And with the help of private tutoring and his new sense of “family,” his grades are just good enough to attend college on a football scholarship (it’s kinda fun seeing all those “real” college coaches file through the front door in sequential cameos).  And the best part of all is---it’s a true story.  Michael Oher was drafted this year in the first round by The Baltimore Ravens of the NFL.  It’s a heart-warming story that just feels real, and it hits home.  This movie is going to be very popular, and enjoy a widely diverse audience.  And now we’re all rooting for Michael Oher.
 
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” for 93-5 KICK-FM