Take the Sandra Bullock vehicle, The Blind Side, for instance. It's a Sandra Bullock movie. It's about a middle-class white woman, Leigh Anne Tuohy, who rescues a troubled and homeless African-American teen, Michael Oher, and offers him a home. Immediate pre-judgment would suggest a saccharine-coated weeper that would see the African-American teen overcome hardship and go onto greatness and in the end it would seem pre-judgment would be correct. As what occurs during the film's two-hour-plus running time is a series of realisations and advertisements for stereotype-breakdown that leaves one with a confirmation of the cynicism with which one may have entered the viewing.
The problem largely lies in the lacklustre screenplay by director John Lee Hancock. He's no real idea of how to bring depth to this story and creates a world so ordinary in its look that one can't always see the true significance of the story being told. Performances are solid without being great and Bullock's Oscar, SAG, Globe-winning performance is testament to the power of the awards machine rather than the acknowledgement of quality. It's a middle-of-the-run turn that lacks the zing of Julia Roberts' performance in Erin Brockovich, a similar sort of turn, that garnered her her awards run back in the early 2000s.
In the end The Blind Side treads so carefully that it ends up really saying nothing. The Oher story is a far more impressive one than the one that graces this version, which is a shame because one would have thought that with a more original take on the story the message may have stuck around far longer. The Blind Side is mediocre at best.
Far from mediocre but not quite great either is the American remake of the Danish film, Brødre, entitled Brothers. Remakes, particularly American ones, of non-English language films generally garner the true ire of film fanatics. It's therefore no surprise to realise that this adaptation comes to the screen with a lot of expectation that it will fail to live up to its predecessor and therefore be justly lambasted with the criticism aimed at arguably unnecessary remakes. It's interesting then when the pre-judgment is slightly amiss.
What can add expectation and a sense of pre-judgment to anything is the collection of praise already heralded upon something by those who have already borne witness. Frozen River came to Australian shores wracked with expectation as a double Oscar nominee. Investigating the world of people smuggling, Frozen River takes hold of a small community and lets the inherent social and economic problems tell its story.
Which is also what can be said of the French bio-pic, Seraphine. Another film to hit Australian shores bearing awards-weight burden after it beat out a red-hot field (The Class, I've Loved You So Long, Paris and A Christmas Tale amongst others) at the Cesar Awards to win Best Picture, the Yolande Moreau starrer is a quiet and odd little film embracing both the worlds of silence and sound within the creative process.
THE BLIND SIDE
John Lee Hancock
France ׀ Belgium