Cast: Sandra Bullock, Kathy Bates, Quinton Aaron, Ray McKinnon and Tim McGraw.
Australian Release Date: February 25th 2010
Australian Rating: PG
This movie is based on a true story. Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy (Bullock and McGraw), a rich, white Christian family take in a homeless African-American boy, known to them at that point only as “Big Mike” (Aaron). They help him with his grades and in sports, in part by giving him a family. He then goes on to become the first league footballer Michael Oher.
Sound sappy and boring? I thought so; which is why I didn’t see it when it came out. But still something tugged at me, so earlier this week when it was lent to me to watch, I was hesitant, but still intrigued. You know what: from the first scene it had me watching intently. Before long I wanted to know how the story played out. I had to know.
Firstly, I want to highlight a few things about the story. Yes, this movie is about Christian values and overcoming racism, but while they are prominent concepts, they are underlying the played up concepts of courage and helping those in need. There is little religion in the story on screen, and where there is, the characters in this film talk more of ideals. One quote in particular I love from this movie is made by Coach Cotton (McKinnon), the first main character trying to get Michael an education: “Look at that wall,” he points to the school emblem. “Christian. We either take that seriously, or paint over it.” Another scene involves Leigh Anne having lunch with her rich snobby friends (who consider charitable intentions to end after you take your cheque book out) and when she tells them that she has taken him in, they laugh patronisingly and say “Honey, you’re changing that boy’s life.” To which she replies, “No. He’s changing mine.” There are a lot of touching moments in this film, and they come in all forms. I often found a smile creep across my face at cute, funny, heartfelt, and surprising moments throughout the film. It was never stagnant or slow paced.
I am generally a fan of Sandra Bullock. There aren’t many roles she has played that she hasn’t done well. But this was, for me, a highlight of her career. The film focuses on the relationship that builds between her character, Leigh Anne Tuohy, and Michael Oher, played by Quinton Aaron, and due to Michael being incredibly shy and Leigh Anne being very much a person who doesn’t like to be seen showing too much emotion, much of their relationship and its growth is shown through facial expression alone. The entire team from script writers to production to post production do an excellent job of showing the natural growth of this relationship too, which helps the believability of the film, and when you see interviews with the people the film is based on, you can see the almost carbon copy of their situation transferred to screen. Simple things added into a scene, like when Leigh Anne gets home and asks her daughter why she isn’t at her boyfriend’s house, and she simply states that she just wanted to spend the day at home, can portray the way things changed in the household. In an interview with the actual daughter, she states that having Michael in the family really brought them together and they found that they were spending more time at home together. All of that in a single line exchange at the beginning of a scene. I just feel that the whole film was put together really well, and the concepts, while not shoved in your face, were executed elegantly. You knew what the movie was about, and what it represented, but you watched it for the story.
I’m not sure if this is a film for everyone though. There are many who would probably still find this movie sappy and boring, but how will you know if you don’t give it a chance? I think it is worth watching. The film has a certain warmth to it that you won’t find in too many films these days.