Published Nov 24, 2009

I saw a double feature over the weekend: The Blind Side and Precious. Yes, it was a depressing double feature. Yes, I cried. Actually, I cried a lot more for The Blind Side; Precious just left me exhausted. And, while the whole wanting-to-go-to-bed-at-3:30pm-on-a-Sunday thing was a bit of a downside for the whole plan, I would definitely recommend seeing the two in a row; they just have some kind of an affinity for each other.

Now, they couldn’t both be much more different, that’s also true. The Blind Side is all in blues and greens; Precious is pinks and yellows and reds and browns. The Blind Side has carefully-lit scenes, mostly with wide shots; Precious’s shots are mostly small and confining, tight on the actors and the action. All the good people in The Blind Side are white and can change the world; while the good people in Precious are multiethnic, they’re all powerless to effect any kind of real change.

That was the main thing about The Blind Side for me: it was the white man’s burden on a 30-foot screen. I might’ve been offended had it not been a true story, and, even being a true story, I might have found it too pablum-filled. But there was the thing: I didn’t. This movie was done with a much less heavy hand than I had ever hoped. The music was absent or quiet; the scenes of past horror only implied sad events, rather than showing them; almost nobody ever preached, and, when they did, it was awkwardly. Heck, Sandra Bullock didn’t overact. Heck, Tim McGraw didn’t overact. And somehow, it all came together perfectly so that I cried at all the right points, even though the music didn’t tell me to, the dramatic delivery didn’t tell me to, the pregnant pauses didn’t tell me to, and the close, shallow-depth-of-field, softened shots didn’t tell me to. It just worked.

If The Blind Side was truly about taking up the white man’s burden and how, in doing so, all of society could change and grow together, then Precious said any such task was futile. Worth dedicating oneself to, certainly, but futile. Precious herself was betrayed by those she should’ve been closest to; how then would she trust Mariah Carey, in the role of the Jewish social worker, to step in and save her? Precious was ultimately a story of self-reliance and empowerment — not that a good outcome would grow out of gaining the tools to manage one’s own life, but that the best possible outcome would spring therefrom. For someone like Precious, or her Downs syndrom daughter, l’il Mongol, that was not much of a good outcome at all.

Yet for the real person, Michael Oher, the true story was that selfless acts of generosity towards others could save the day. (I have never been so happy to hear that someone signed a $14mm rookie NFL contract as I was for Oher after seeing that movie!) Maybe that’s why The Blind Side is a true story, and Precious is a work of fiction: the few who are like Michael Oher stand out enough that you can make a movie about them, but the Preciouses of the world blend in, come from nothing and come to nothing, and so there’s no one real one to hold on to as the center of your movie.

In the end, The Blind Side says: “do the only Christian thing — help others, and you will succeed.” Precious says “help others, and you will fail, but the trying itself is worth it.” In the end, both messages match reality, on the right sample size. And, in the end, both of these movies fresh in my mind, boy I could use a hug.

1 Comment

As emotionally exhausting a day as this was, it certainly was a great way to see both movies. As for the hug, I’ll be right there.