Friday, November 7, 2014

Film Friday: The Blind Side

Fall is a time to watch the boys of the gridiron and this month marks the 5-year anniversary of the theatrical release of The Blind Side. Based on the book by Michael Lewis, the film earned $255 million at the box office as well as a Best Picture Oscar nomination and netted Sandra Bullock an Academy Award for Best Actress. I remember finishing reading the book within a few days of seeing the movie opening night, hoping as all book fans do that the adaptation doesn't botch what was beloved about the original source material. Thankfully, director and screenwriter John Lee Hancock delivered.

In professional football, the game has become more dependent on the quarterback who captains the offense and often throws the ball. In order for the quarterback to get the proper amount of time to throw a pass or determine what he wants to do with the ball, he has to have a strong offensive line, particularly an all-world left tackle to protect his blind side from defensive pressure. Often, the left tackle is the second-highest paid player on the team besides the quarterback. Essentially, they're the QB's insurance policy.

Lewis' book delves into the history of the offensive lineman position and specifically, Michael Oher, a Memphis teen with a troubled childhood who gets taken in by the Tuohy family and discovers a talent for protecting the quarterback's blind side on the high school football team. The book's structure is set up to where the two key threads alternate, so one chapter is on the football specifics, then the next one is on Oher's story. At the time I read the book, I was more into the sports minutiae than the human interest side of the story, but there were moments where I wanted to blaze through the lineman history chapter and get to the next part of Michael's story. The book is well-paced and informative, but may not be the best for readers not interested in the football position details.

That's where the movie comes in, for better or for worse. The explanation of the offensive lineman position is limited to a brief opening sequence, but then focuses exclusively on Oher. Bullock was well-deserving of an Oscar for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy, who spearheads the effort to take Michael in. The film is firmly rooted in realism (there's a lot of cameos by college coaches, namely current University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban) and the film's final scene is archive footage from the NFL Network of Oher being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens. When I saw the movie with friends who had not read the book, they were able to guess the plot threads correctly, so there are few twists and turns for the average audience. Overall, Bullock's performance elevates what would otherwise be a very ordinary movie. Rating for both the movie and book: 4/5 stars.

When the film was released, Oher was in his debut season with the Ravens. He went on to a 5-year career in Baltimore, winning the Super Bowl in 2012. He currently plays for the Tennessee Titans. Meanwhile, Oher's alma mater, the Ole Miss Rebels, has an outside shot of competing for the national championship as of this writing. They were at one point this season the No. 3-ranked team in the country. The team is coached by Oher's high school coach, Hugh Freeze. The Tuohys have gone on to be featured on television and countless interviews (Leigh Anne is an interior designer, husband Sean owns dozens of restaurant franchises and previously worked as a broadcaster for the Memphis Grizzlies NBA basketball team).

When Oher won the Super Bowl, ABC News did a follow-up piece on the story. If you can't see the video below, click here.

Since the film's release, director John Lee Hancock earned acclaim for directing Saving Mr. Banks, one of my favorite movies of 2013. Sandra Bullock was terrific last year in Gravity and Tim McGraw (Sean Tuohy) will be in next year's sci-fi film Tomorrowland, but actor Quinton Aaron (Michael Oher) and actress Lily Collins (Leigh Anne and Sean's daughter Collins Tuohy) have not had the same level of success post-Blind Side despite receiving acclaim for their roles.

Have you seen or read The Blind Side? What did you think?

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