A Window into Life in the Suburbs


"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Now Showing: The Blind Side

Several days ago I caught a rambling conversation on PJTV (A subsidiary of Pajamas Media for those who aren’t up with the times) by two Hollywood insiders nattering about a movie called The Blind Side. Previous to this, I hadn’t even heard about The Blind Side so to hear that it was up for a couple of Oscars, surprised me (and apparently everyone else on the planet). Anyhow, what really piqued my interest in the film was a passing comment from one of the duo about how surprised he was that this movie actually got made within the largely non-conservative nebula known as Hollywood, mainly because, (shock horror!) the lead character was a woman motivated to do good deeds out of her Christian faith.

To say that Hollywood doesn’t understand Christians or people of faith is to understate the issue. It is more likely that those who make and green light films in Tinseltown exist in another one of the alternate universes they regularly make films about. Clueless about how some of us live, Hollywood often defaults to portraying God believers as repressed fanatics or raging lunatics and/or child molesters. This is not to say, however, that The Blind Side is a decidedly Christian film , in the same way Fireproof set out to be but it tells the tale (with great discretion) of ordinary Christian people going about their business when they happen to encounter a life changing moment.

The first thing that struck me about The Blind Side was its innate niceness which often translates to disarming humour. It is a rare thing to watch a film where the family in focus is not a steaming pile of dysfunctional mess which seems to be the fashion these days. You know what I mean... an overused, clichéd plot recycled with weary familiarity: In this oft repeated scenario the father is having an affair with the neighbour or a co-worker, the mother, a bored housewife, hankers for an old flame and the children are either depressed delinquents or have curiously managed to defy genetics to become more worldly wise than their parents. No doubt the nuclear family has taken quite a beating of late, nowhere more than in Hollywood. Here, however, we note that the Tuohys are a wealthy, conservative Christian family. Sean and Leigh Ann are happily married and their children from all appearance well-adjusted, with not much teenage angst in the offing. All in all, a strange beast for the Hollywood machine to comprehend.

Still, if there’s anything Hollywood understands, it’s money. This film cost a mere US$35 million to make and has already made over US$250 million. It’s an oddity in an age where spectacular effects and the shock factor abound in contemporary movie making. While there’s a suggestion of darkness that haunts the characters, it is never allowed to overwhelm the sanguine tone of this inspiring tale of human kindness.

In short, it’s an understated fare, an un-Hollywood flick that feels no need to posture. One can’t help but feel a certain suburban solidarity with these people. The boy from the wrong side of the tracks meets decent, rich family and is offered an opportunity of a lifetime. Michael Oher’s past is undoubtedly wretched and the temptation for him to fall back on to familiar patterns of behaviour is never too far away. But the director is never tempted to overdo anything as there’s no over acting or an overlong bombastic moment. Although Sandra Bullock is the star, the film insists that ultimately the success of Michael Oher lies in (to use an appropriate sporting metaphor) a concerted team effort, starting from a self-serving coach, remarkably patient teachers to a big-hearted adoptive family. The marvellous thing about human beings is that we are capable of change even while we’re influencing others, as they can in turn, influence us.

There is little need to say more. A film like this generally falls within predictable lines. In this case, that’s not a bad thing. There’s no pretense to be anything mindblowingly original but when I’m having a bad day or scratching around for something to feel good about, I’m not averse to watching something that ends happily ever after.

3 comments:

  1. Great - I might be seeing this movie on Friday. I'm all for happy endings (that's why I love Disney movies so much!). I agree that families as portrayed in Hollywood seem to be in a perpetual mess, and those that aren't are ridiculously mocked (Ned Flanders and his clan are an example of how a 'perfect' family is so imperfect and naive in mainstream shows).

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  2. Cool. A comment! Exciting moment for moi. Come back again, Esther.
    I'm not a fan of The Simpsons... I have been known to enjoy the occasional episode... but very occasionally and not for a long time now.

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  3. Update - saw it yesterday! I loved it. Can see why she won Best Actress. A very meaningful movie.

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