Sandra Bullock is an unlikely film star in some ways. That strange snub nose, the skinny body, the snotty expression, the cheesy grin, that awful accent – and those eyes. Are they actually glued to the side of her head? Where exactly is she looking? Her girl-next-door appeal seems to have enabled her to get away with everything from the forgettable (Miss Congeniality, Lake House) to the sheer awful (Premonition, All About Steve).
However, Infamous proved she can actually act, and now she is favourite to win an Oscar for her role as football mum Leigh Anne in The Blind Side. Here’s the big news – she’s actually pretty good – feisty, lively, stubborn and tough, although there is still a nagging doubt about whether it’s really an Oscar performance. It probably says more about the poor quality of written roles for women than a ringing endorsement for Bullock, although she’s certainly way less irritating than Meryl Streep.
The plot is pretty standard rags to riches Disney-style stuff, with a bit of The Wire thrown in. Aaron plays Michael Oher, a muscular black kid struggling at school and with no apparent home life to speak of. He is befriended by schoolmate SJ (Head), and when SJ’s mum Leigh Anne (Bullock) spots him walking aimlessly on a winter’s night they take him into their large, comfortable home. Michael’s grades improve, and being so massive he becomes the school football star – but is he too soft to really make it? A few pep talks from his new mum soon sorts all that out – but when the big colleges come scouting for him the real problems start. Have the white family been grooming the boy just to go to their old college?
It’s all fairly cheesy stuff, way cleaner than the real story must have been – even when Michael goes back to the Projects it’s pretty Wire-lite – and you don’t need to have a crystal ball to see where it’s going. Yet for all of that it remains watchable, enjoyable and even quite funny. Bullock is about as appealing she can be as the protective foster mum, and her meeting with Michael’s real-life mother is a surprisingly moving scene. She can put down the ladies she lunches with while remaining cool, and McGraw is at least as good as the sympathetic dad. You have to sit through a lot of American Football, but Bullock is the reason to stick with it. Just keep her away from the script of All About Steve 2...