Tag Archives: The Blind Side

Movie Review: Precious (2009)

Some have called Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” By Sapphire (I find this long title hugely annoying so I will just call the film Precious) the “dark” version of The Blind Side (a triumphant story about how a poor black kid overcomes impossible odds to become “somebody”).  Precious similarly tackles the demoralising aspect of African American life, but in a more confronting, uncompromising way — drenched in poverty, illiteracy, obesity, disease, domestic violence and sexual abuse — though unlike The Blind Side, there’s no rich white family to turn it into a fairytale.

It tells the story of Precious Jones, an  illiterate, obese, African American girl living in a dysfunctional household with her mother in Harlem.  At just 16 years of age, Precious is pregnant with her second child.  You can imagine what her life is like.  It’s incredibly bleak.  There’s not much hope for someone like her in this world, or so it would appear.

I’m not quite sure what to make of Precious.  On the one hand, you feel an incredible amount of pity for Precious.  She didn’t ask to be born into this life.  Her mother is an abomination.  It’s a damnation of American life and culture, in particular African American life and culture.

On the other hand, I didn’t get much out of it.  It’s not enjoyable, and for the most part, is an extremely depressing experience.  I was engaged by the story, but there wasn’t much to get excited about for the 110-minute running time.

I will say, though, that the performances were outstanding.  Now that I’ve seen it, I agree whole-heartedly that Mo’Nique deserved the Oscar as Precious’ mother.  She’s a hard, terrifying woman, who is so disillusioned with her own life that she does nothing to prevent her daughter from heading down the same hopeless path, or worse.

Gabourey Sidibe, in her debut role, is also very good as the titular character, but I don’t think she is as remarkable as she’s been hyped up to be.

The two music superstars deserve special mention.  Mariah “Glitter” Carey is actually pretty adequate as a frumpy, plain, welfare social worker, and Lenny Kravitz is almost unrecognisable as a friendly male nurse.

Lastly, I wonder whether the fact that Precious is NOT a true story had any impact on my impression of it.  One of the reasons why The Blind Side got away with a lot of the corny melodrama is because we know it’s ultimately based on true events.  I’m not sure whether it affected me or not, but knowing that Precious Jones is not a real person may have subconsciously brought out the cynic in me.  After all, author Sapphire appears to have crammed all the worst possible attributes and circumstances imaginable into a single character, and in doing so, puts the film and character at risk of being perceived as manipulation.

Look, it’s a good film, but I’m just sayin’.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Blind Side (2009)

I can’t believe I am saying this, but I loved The Blind Side.

When I first laid eyes on the poster with a blonde Sandra Bullock and a big, black American footballer, I groaned.  With a name like The Blind Side and a poster like that, I expected a sappy, saccharine melodrama in the vein of Pay It Forward and Stepmom.

I was wrong.

The Blind Side is a film about compassion, prejudice, family, chance, and the virtues of hard work.  It tells the inspirational true story of Michael Oher, an underprivileged (albeit talented) African-American youth, and his relationship with Leigh Anne Tuohy, a wealthy white woman from the other side of town.  As per usual, I won’t say much more than that.  If you don’t know who Michael Oher is, great.  Don’t look him up before seeing the movie.

Two things really surprised me about The Blind Side.

First, it is so much better than it should have been.  The Blind Side is truly a terrific film.  One that pulls at the heart strings without trying to tear them down.  It may have been a little sappy and a little melodramatic at times, but for the most part, director and screenwriter John Lee Hancock (The Rookie, The Alamo) manages to keep the film from tipping over the edge.  There are numerous moments that will warm your heart, but very few that will make you cringe in discomfort.

Second, Sandra Bullock is good.  There, I said it.  Sandra Bullock is good in The Blind Side.  I may have ranted about her Oscar nomination but I now think she is deserving.  Bullock’s really not that much better than she was in her other movies, but when you stick an average actress in a great film and the perfect role, anything is possible.  While I don’t think Bullock deserves to win (though I think she probably will), I admit I was wrong to compare her to Matthew McConaughey.  That was low, even for me.

There’s not too much to complain about The Blind Side.  The length (128 minutes) is fine, the pacing is good, and the sporadic humour is lighthearted and in the right spirit.  The only thing is that it’s a little too neat and tidy.  There are some very ugly issues underlying the film, but it never felt like they were properly confronted.  Too sanitised, perhaps, and consequently missing that raw emotional power.

It would have been easy to dismiss The Blind Side as a “white people are so wonderful” movie, except that it is a true story.  Romanticised, perhaps, but a true story nonetheless.  That’s what makes it remarkable.  Every time you think things are too good to be true, you just have to remind yourself that it (or something like it) actually happened.

Movies based on inspirational true stories aren’t supposed to actually leave you feeling inspired, but somehow, The Blind Side does.

4.5 stars out of 5!