I finally got to the theater with my wife last week to see The Blind Side, after wanting to for weeks. We caught a matinee and found the film just as good as I'd been told; The film, which had received mixed and generally unenthusiastic reviews but terrific box office was the kind of film that Hollywood rarely makes-aimed at the huge American flyover demographic (not just the usual targeted teens and young adults, but football-loving, church-going middle America of all ages) that rarely has films very knowing about their culture. The very smart production was directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie) who understands this audience, and starred perennial American sweetheart Sandra Bullock who again demonstrated her range as Leigh Anne Tuohy, an ubercompetent mom and interior decorator and a beardless, Stetson-less Tim McGraw as her businessman husband Sean. The lives of this Memphis power couple and their two children changed when, seeing a hulking black teen walking along the road one cold night, they take him home and make him one of their family. Michael Oher has huge educational deficits brought about by his non-existent family life, having been abandoned by his single mother as a child. Michael had previously slept on the sofa of another black couple and the husband had sought Michael's welfare by placing him in the same all-white Christian school the Tuohy children attended, Leigh Anne, with Sean's admiring support becomes Michael's chief advocate. Michael is played by Quinton Aaron, who brings a moving understatement to the gentle giant's gradual realization that this family loves him and that he has both academic and athletic potential ready to blossom.

Yes, this is another of the triumph-of-the-underdog sports genre that American audiences love, but the football scenes are relatively small compared to the human drama of this true story. The love and faith poured into Michael by the Tuohy's and his teachers results in his being recruited by Ole Miss and then last year's recruitment into the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. As a film studies professor interested in all sorts of adaptations, I couldn't help wondering which moments and incidents were real and what had necessarily been scripted to compress months of relationship development that Michael made with his adoptive family. That side of The Blind Side will be examined tonight, Jan. 29th on ABC's 20/20 where the real-life family (pictured above) is interviewed. The show's website features video and text apparently already available before tonight's airing. I expect the show will confirm just how close the film was to this true-life tale of compassion and triumph.

Posted by: Alex Wainer