by Rick Grant
Sandra Bullock is an accomplished and versatile actress who has done Oscar worthy work in the past in such films as “Crash.” In this film, Bullock stretches her acting chops as a caring altruistic woman who takes in a wayward stranger, Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) and helps him find love and security in her family. However, Bullock is considered a commercial actress with bankable box office clout, something that gets her no respect with Academy voters.
Nonetheless, this film breaks the archetype sports film formula by its focus on characters and its emotional depth. The true story is a showcase for Bullock to delve deeply into her real life character’s unselfish motivations.
Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, an affluent wife of a successful businessman, Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw). The couple has two children, S.J. Tuohy (Jae Head) and Collins Tuohy (Lily Collins). Sean owns a string of fast food restaurants and is, by all accounts, a thoughtful loving husband. (He’s henpecked but okay with it.)
Yes, what Leigh Anne wants, she gets. And that is where 18 year-old Michael Oher comes into their lives. The gentle giant ends up homeless and is trudging along the road in the cold night with no jacket. The Tuohys come along and take him in for the night.
Leigh Anne learns that Michael’s mother is a crack addict. The state took him away from her years ago and placed him in foster care, but he ran away. He has an 80 IQ and his educational level was at 8th grade level.
One thing leads to another, and Leigh Anne decides to make Michael a part of her family. Of course, her husband knew that he might as well say yes because it was futile to argue with his strong willed wife. Eventually, the Tuohys became Michael’s legal guardian.
Since Michael is now playing for the Baltimore Ravens and the real life Tuohys are active in the community, Bullock and the cast had an opportunity to learn from their real life counterparts about their way of life and how Michael easily melded into the family.
At the local Christian high school where Michael attends, Sean and the Coach Cotton (Ray McKinnon) notice that Michael had athletic talent at basketball and maybe football. His 6’8′ frame and unusual strength were impressive.
However, in order for him to even try out for football he had to get his grades up to a higher level. Leigh Anne knew he needed special help, so she hired a tutor, Miss Sue (Kathy Bates) to help Michael.
It was a struggle but Miss Sue got Michael’s grades up to the minimum level to play sports and he went out for the team. Michael had a wonderful gift, being able to live in the moment and not worry about the past. He wasn’t angry or violent. So, he didn’t seem to have the passion to be an offensive lineman.
Not to worry, spunky Leigh Anne, a diehard Ole Miss football fan, tells Michael to think of the team as his family and protect the quarterback. It works and gradually Michael gets the hang of the game and becomes an all-star player.
Little Jae Head, as S.J., steals his scenes with his feisty intelligent personality. He bonds with Michael before the other family members get on board.
Written and directed by John Lee Hancock based on Michael Lewis’ book by the same title, the final cut is a perfect balance of emotional elements without waxing gushingly sentimental. Bullock again proved she has superior acting chops when emotional depth is demanded. She is also a gifted comedic actress which has made her very wealthy.
The pertinent question is: Why can’t an actress like Bullock have box office prowess and also be recognized for her acting talent? Well, the Academy members tend to be snobs who look up their noses at commercially successful actors. After all, the idea of the film business is to be commercially successful as well as artistically relevant. Bullock gives them both smoking barrels.