Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Review of The Blind Side

Connie has been trying to get me to watch "The Blind Side" for a long time, and I've successfully resisted. I don't like football movies, and I don't like "feel good" movies. I mean, I don't want to, anyway. But I sat down and watched it with my famdamily last night and I found it very moving.

I'm not going to give a blow-by-blow description of the movie, but just this capsule summary that you probably have already heard: A rich white family (Sandra Bullock is the mom) in Memphis, Tennessee take in a homeless, really big, and big-hearted black kid named Michael. They believe in him when nobody else does, and against all odds they see him through high school, into college (thanks to enormous football talent) and into pro football.

I'm not one who can just take a movie at face value and enjoy it for whatever mood it imparts on its audience. I have to pick at it, and think about it. I can't really say that I liked a movie until I've thought about it a long time. (I know now that I like "Groundhog Day", which came out in 1993).

Here are some random thoughts about the movie, in no particular order:

Taking a chance on a stranger:
This family takes in this kid without knowing anything about him, other than that he needs a place to stay. It turns out that he's a really sweet kid, but it occurred to me that things don't always turn out that way. There's a saying, "No good deed goes unpunished" for a reason.

Race relations: I felt a little bit uncomfortable with the racial issues at the heart of the movie. The white family truly comes to love Michael, and he comes to love them. So race is no barrier to love. But on the other hand, I wonder about the idea of white people "rescuing" poor black kids from their fates. That seems a little condescending to me. This is a more difficult issue for me, personally, because some people might think that Connie and I rescued our adopted kids. Sometimes I catch myself thinking that way, but then I'm ashamed of myself for it. We certainly have gotten so much from having them in our lives--it's a two-way thing. But certainly the idea of becoming adoptive parents was motivate partly by wanting to help poor kids who needed families. Maybe it's all simpler for birth families?

The other aspect of race relations was about the different sections of town. The neighborhood that Michael was from was a poor, crime-ridden area that pretty much only black people lived in. The white people of Memphis never set foot there. Except of course, Sandra Bullock's character, who doesn't back down when it comes to fighting for her family. (She's a Mama Grizzly type, I guess). When she is threatened by some guy, she tells him that she's personal friends with the Memphis DA, and that she belongs to the NRA, and that she's always packing heat.

Every child can learn: Michael, who was believed to be very low IQ, turned out to be able to do well in school, given a good tutor. The rich family was VERY rich (I'm not sure what they did for a living) and they hired a full-time tutor (played by Kathy Bates, who I love) to turn Michael around, academically. His GPA soared from below 1 (0.26 or something like that) to 2.5, which isn't great, but is above the cutoff for being able to participate in sports, and is good enough to get into college (if you are 6 foot 5 and weigh 290 pounds).

The message of this might have been that Michael was actually a pretty smart kid, and just needed somebody to believe in him and someone to help him out. But it occurred to me that EVERY kid could do a lot better if he or she only had a full-time dedicated tutor. That made me think that the "crisis" in education in America is really about money. We can't afford to give every kid a private tutor, so the issue isn't really how to educate our children, it's how to educate the most children for a reasonable amount of money. There's nothing wrong with that--you have to make decisions based on what you can afford. But when people argue about education policy and they insist that it's not about money---well, yes it is.

Feel good movies: In spite of all my cynicism, I got a little moist-eyed during this movie. It was a good movie. It was based on a true story, which probably made it more acceptable, because if it were complete fiction, it would definitely be too schmaltzy to take.


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