Starring: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw

Director: John Lee Hancock

Sandra Bullock is one of those actresses I have taken for granted.  This is not without reason.  She definitely is a smart woman, having produced many of her own films and worked on her own terms for several years.  This has led to surprise gems like Ms. Congeniality, Hope Floats and Two Weeks Notice.  In the process, she has taken work in some cruddy films produced by herself and others like Practical Magic, All About Steve and Forces of Nature. Once in a while, she will come up with an incredible performance, like her racist, scared wife in Crash and her race blind, fearless wife in The Blind Side.

This movie works primarily on two strong performances, the sly, subtle performance of Quinton Aaron, and the surprisingly strong, yet unguarded portrayal by Bullock.  If you don’t know the story by now, you haven’t been keeping up on your overdose of media.  So much was said about this movie, I was not in a hurry to see it.  Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall, and other movies have tread the same well worn path of triumph over tragedy on the gridiron.  Both of those movies were fine, but you could almost count the cliches to hit their marks on time.

Not that there is any shortage of cliches in this film.  You have your interactions with bad seeds, discovering talent, overcoming subtle racism, pesky little kid given way too much screen time and the NCAA big brother.

All of these flow surprisingly well within the two strong performances.  Aaron, last seen in the movie in many uncredited roles, is a strong presence who skillfully articulates someone who has no place in the world.  His eyes, sympathetic yet not seeking sympathy, search for a place to rest, while expecting to have to keep moving along.  I was ready to dismiss the portrayal.  His performance prevented it.

Bullock fills this role like she was made for it.  She inhabits the person of a conservative Christian housewife quite comfortably.  The thing that impresses me most about Bullock is she could have turned this into a role of a bull in a China shop, and she likely would have gotten the nomination anyway.  She got the award because she is visibly moved by each moment that passes.  She is confident, but open to answers.  She gives thanks to God for it all.

This movie is well worth the time of any family.

***1/2 out of ******

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