Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

05 February 2010

Blind Sides

I found The Blind Side rather charming. I was ready to hate it—The Blind Side is, after all, recycled neoliberal Hollywood treacle about a good white family who helps a good black boy achieve his dreams—but I found the film hard to hate.

This mostly has to do with Sandra Bullock. I have never been a fan, but she is truly a delight in the film, and I won't feel the least bit bad if she wins the Oscar this year. The performance reminds me of Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich more than anything else. It's the performance of a star at the top of her game who doesn't really need to work very hard to carry a film anymore, but who is willing to do so and has become so good at carrying films that she makes it look easy (sort of like, say, Brad Pitt in Oceans Eleven).

My favorite performance in the movie, I should say, is Adriane Lenox. She plays the young boy's mother and has a single scene that she simply tears up. It is a fierce, heartbreaking little performance that I found devastating and brilliant.

Let's be clear, though, The Blind Side mobilizes the same, tired, racist ideas that we have come to expect from a Hollywood movie. So the film makes it really clear that there are "bad" black people, who live in the projects, do a lot of crack, have children out of "wedlock" (people still actually use that word--at least in the film), drink forties and carry guns. Mostly, though, the "bad" black people don't do anything; that is, they are not trying to do anything to get out of the projects. Contrasting those "bad" black people are the "good" black people (there are only a couple of those in The Blind Side) who are protective of white people, non-violent, shy, grateful, and sensitive.
There are "bad" white people and "good" white people, too. The film shows us people who are overtly anti-black, and these "bad" white people are chastised by the "good" white people at the film's center. We need the "bad" white people, of course, so that we are very clear as to what white racism looks like. (Turns out, it looks like snobby rich white bitches or bearded uneducated country folk.) Racism in the film is represented by these two groups of people. Or rather, these groups of people are described clearly as racist groups so that we can understand better that the film's central characters do not have racist ideas.

The Blind Side, then, isn't exactly harmless entertainment, but it is a charming little fairy tale, and the film's central performance is delightful and spunky.