Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Company: Warner Bros. Pictures / Alcon Entertainment
Runtime: 129 minutes
The movie is about Michael Oher, a big Black man who has a very dark past that he cannot seem to escape. In his childhood, he was forcibly separated to his mother, having this memory as a sort of a setback in his life.
He enters Wingate Christian School through the help of the school coach because of his impressive height, even though his academic record doesn’t do well. He was also befriended by a talkative boy named SJ Tuohy.
One night, after a school play, the Tuohys see Michael walking alone with clothes unsuitable for the very cold temperature that night. They leave, but the strong-willed and devout Christian matriarch of the family, Leigh Anne Tuohy, decides to let him stay for the night, as he doesn’t have any place to stay that night.
As he slowly becomes a part of the family, Leigh Anne requests her to be his legal guardian. He then joins the football team. Even if he was uneasy at first, he learns the whole game, thanks to the ever supportive Leigh Anne. He also gets a scholarship through the help of a Democrat tutor, Miss Sue.
He gets subjected in an investigation about the motives of the family to him. Doubts started to rise in him, and confronts Leigh Anne about it, and disappears. He returns to his place, but starts a fight when his friends insulted his family.
The next day, Leigh Anne comes, furious and courageous, to look for Michael even if it means confronting danger. After that, she meets him and explains to him things and says that he has freedom in what college would he want to attend. He says his heartbreaking farewell to Leigh Anne as he starts his college life.
I guess you don’t really think this is in any way Oscar material, right?
The direction is average, as yo may expect. The director never tries to make anything special or noticeable in the direction. Everything falls in place as you expect it to be. Underdog stories raises a bigger challenge, for me, because they need to make it exhilarating or thrilling. What I mean is that, it could have been something different, but because it obviously try to capture all kinds of moviegoers, it settles for the generic direction, making its potential wasted. The product of the direction is a normal inspiring movie with the sense of religion, far from an extraordinary film.
Still, I can’t hate it to the extremes because as it never becomes anything great, it also wasn’t offending. I don not think that it was cheesy in any way, nor I ever saw a cheesy moment in the film. Maybe there are preachy scenes, but the director still creates something entertaining and, sometimes, achingly real in the scenes in the film. So, the direction was serviceable. Far from great, but also far from bad.
The screenplay simply wastes the strong material it has. I’m not saying I had fun watching the film, but it’s not to be credited to this mediocre screenplay. The screenplay committed a lot of injuries to everyone involved in the movie. The film stuck to a lot of cliches – the noisy son, the good Samaritan, the strong-willed mom, white man’s burden, the ever-patient mom – and it reaches a point where almost all of the characters turn cardboards by the immensely uninspired screenplay.
Its biggest offense is by simplifying the character of Leigh Anne. The character itself is a very tough and hard-to-play character and in the hands of a much more skillful writer, Leigh Anne could have been brought to the next level and, maybe, it may go down into cinematic history along with Blanche DuBois, Scarlett O’Hara, Ilsa Lund, and Margo Channing. Instead, the screenplay removes every chance of the character to shine and show her other dimensions. It sticks into the good Samaritan cliche, and that’s it.
Its horrendous efforts to make this film appealing turns its way around and it turns out, the screenplay is the biggest letdown of the film. Still, there are some cute, but undoubtedly ignorable, moments in the film. The screenplay is the film’s biggest fault, and that’s basically it.
The technical part is really useless to talk about. What we have here is a run-on-the-mill movie made to rake millions in the box-office. Cinematography is mundane, editing is somewhat accomplished, sound is okay, musical score is acceptable but very TV-ish, art direction ignorable, costume design somewhat adorable but far from demanding.
The acting is, well, in the radar of cringe-worthy to good.
Tim McGraw is okay if ignorable as Sean Tuohy. He is just used by the screenplay because he needs to be there to represent Leigh Anne’s husband, but what McGraw does is that he makes it sure that every moment he is in is important for the development of Leigh Anne’s character. Still, he is always in Bullock’s background, but rest assured, he is believable.
Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher is as believable as McGraw. Actually, he is the real lead in the story. Most of the time, Bullock’s Leigh Anne is only second fiddle to Aaron’s Michael. The only problem with Aaron is that he loses his hold whenever Bullock is in his scene. He’s the real lead of the story, but in a way, he is easily forgotten when Bullock starts to act as Leigh Anne. Still, okay and not noteworthy.
I do not really care for the other characters because of either of the two: their character was treated so badly that you cannot even care for him, or they act so bad and it gives you irritation that you may just want to skip them (Adriane Lenox and Jae Head, for example). One actress seem to hold her grip firmly and does her thing right without being affected by the bastardized screenplay it has. That is Kathy Bates in a very small role of Miss Sue. She didn’t do any miracles, she just did her thing in a rightfully. She never lets the mess around her affect her performance. Maybe not really something recognizable, but in this film, she does some kind of a wonder.
And now, we have Sandra Bullock, the only reason to see this film. Like what I have said a while ago, she looks like a secondary character when compared to Michael, but when she starts doing her stuff. You totally forget that. She immerses you to a character that is entirely believable that, even if it is one-dimensional, you still care for her.
In this performance, we see tow Leigh Annes – the kindhearted Christian, and the strong willed and strong witted Southern lady. As for the first one, she is able to pull it off. Her dramatic side here is a thing that, although not something to behold, is somewhat skillful, if you are given the knowledge of the screenplay. In a cliche-ridden mess of the screenplay, she manages to create a humane person produced from the weaved events in the movie. In her somewhat small time, she instantly creates a fascinating character that I want to meet and would want to know more. And there is the problem. You don’t know her that much, because of the backstabbing screenplay, so even if you know that she is so far above the material, you always feel that there is something missing in this character. She was able to pull of the dramatic scenes with a sense of sharpness and subtlety that makes her already deserving of a nomination, but not a win.
Then there is the other Leigh Anne which I like a lot, lot more, the smart-ass Leigh Anne. As a talented actress, what impresses me in this performance is that she was able to avoid being stuck in the mess of a movie trying hard to be a dramedy. Whenever she is about tom deliver a funny line, she delivers it. Some lines are not really meant to make us laugh, but to make us see the joy of the character. Bullock does that, and in every scene, you know that she is an alert and somewhat aggressive person. She makes us feel that she’s strong and she won’t give up in a conversation. She will always win. Consider her rampant complaint about the long queue of people waiting. A could have been cringe-worthy scenario was twisted by her and made it into a really good scene in this film.
I wish she was given a lot more to do in this film. The writing fails her, but she never failed me in making me believe that she is someone you can count on. Of course, on the topic of her Oscar, I do not believe she deserve to win, but her nomination is justified.
Just to add something, this is not a sports film actually. They market this as some kind of a full-time sports melodramatic tearjerker, but the whole football thing doesn’t even last that long. Maybe you wouldn’t even agree.
So, what we have here is a potentially rousing story of an underdog who gets what he deserves, but with a screenplay to murder you, you can’t say that you’re even Oscar material. Wasted opportunities for greatness, Bullock is good but could have been 1000% better.
For this, the movie gets:
What are you thoughts, dear reader?