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The Blind Side

Year: 2009
Production Co: Alcon Entertainment
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: John Lee Hancock
Writer: John Lee Hancock/Michael Lewis
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Lily Collins, Kathy Bates

How this film got as far as winning Sandra Bullock a best actress Oscar I still can't work out (though I suspect it has a lot to do with Hollywood's view of race relations, which I'll get to more in a moment), but it's success can only be attributed to such a visible plaudit.

Bullock is no-nonsense, good-hearted wealthy southern housewife Leigh Anne who (for some reason) takes an underprivileged black kid under her wing and gives him a chance in life, making him part of the family and helping him on the path to a decent school and a career in pro football.

It's a movie about giving and acceptance, but the themes are handles very cack-handedly. The first problem is that there are no real stakes. There are a couple of scenes where Michael (Quinton Aaron) returns to the down and out hood he's from, but even when a drug dealer pulls a gun it seems like something out of a Disney movie (maybe it's no coincidence Hancock went on to helm Saving Mr Banks). Considering it's a story about race, there's almost no evident racism.

To give the proceedings any sense of dramatic urgency, the story invents a ham-fisted conspiracy subplot where the local NAACP seems to think everyone around Michael is coercing him into going to the school they like.

Every other beat – from the cartoonishly rednecked spectators at the game smacked down by Leigh Anne to her kids' unquestioning acceptance of Michael in their house – gives everyone a breezy, conflict-free journey to a Hollywood happy ending. It's almost like it was a just characterisation exercise for Bullock.

Then there's the racial politics that made even me (a white male not even from America) embarrassed for the cause of African American equality. Like John Coffey in The Green Mile, this is the Hollywood fantasy of a black man – a big, dopey, dumb lunk of a guy who could crush you in his fist but who's soft-hearted and wouldn't hurt a fly, all too ready to do what the whites tell him.

It's the suburban white outlook on black America – strong but docile, easing collective guilt as Michael's absorbed gently into the white picket fence way of life. In another era by another director inspired by touchstones of angry black culture like Putney Swope or NWA, Michael would've waited until he was entrenched in Leigh Anne's household, banged the cute daughter Collins (Lily Collins), probably Leigh Anne herself, shot everyone else and used the house as a headquarters for the Black Panthers – occupying a place of privilege by vengeful force instead of white charity.

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