Two Dramas from Warner Bros.
The Blind Side (November 21/09)
The Blind Side tells the true story of Michael Oher, a dim-witted, homeless teenager who turns his life around after he's welcomed into the home of a wealthy Southern family (which includes Sandra Bullock's Leigh Anne and Tim McGraw's Sean) - with the bulk of the movie subsequently following Michael's upward trajectory through his high school's football program. Director John Lee Hancock has infused The Blind Side with the feel of an almost prototypical feel-good sports movie, and although Leigh Anne's rationale for inviting a complete stranger to live in her home isn't explored to quite the degree one might've hoped for, there's little doubt that the chemistry between the characters, Leigh Anne and Michael especially, plays in instrumental role in initially drawing the viewer into the proceedings. The emphasis on lighthearted elements effectively opens The Blind Side's appeal beyond its gridiron-heavy premise, as Michael's ongoing efforts at acclimatizing himself to his new surroundings lends the film a fish-out-of-water feel that proves impossible to resist. Quinton Aaron's stirring work as Michael ensures that the character, though initially rather standoffish in appearance and demeanor, becomes an increasingly compelling figure as the movie progresses, yet there's no denying that Bullock's thoroughly (and unexpectedly) commanding performance stands as the film's most intriguing attribute - although, admittedly, it's just as clear that the actress' imposing turn often overpowers the efforts of her various costars (including Aaron himself). And while the film does lose some steam as it progresses - the overlong running time is exacerbated by the presence of certain undeniably superfluous elements and subplots (ie Michael's encounter with a comically villainous NCAA representative) - The Blind Side mostly comes off as an affable (if entirely unremarkable) piece of work that will probably have a more pronounced impact on fans of either Oher or football in general.
Nights in Rodanthe
Infused with an unapologetically shameless atmosphere of sappiness, Nights in Rodanthe primarily comes off as an entertaining yet entirely forgettable romance that nevertheless packs an unexpectedly potent emotional punch as it draws to a close. The film follows a pair of unhappy characters (Diane Lane's Adrienne and Richard Gere's Paul) as they find themselves falling in love after meeting at a rustic inn, with their eventual affair inevitably forcing the couple to confront the various problems within their respective lives. Director George C. Wolfe - working from a screenplay by Ann Peacock and John Romano - has infused Nights in Rodanthe with a distinctly old-fashioned sensibility that undoubtedly mirrors author Nicholas Sparks' eponymous novel, as the unabashed lack of complexity that's been hard-wired into the proceedings is ultimately reminiscent of such previous Sparks adaptations as The Notebook and Message in a Bottle. Despite the overt manner in which virtually every plot twist is telegraphed, however, Nights in Rodanthe generally remains a cut above the majority of its melodramatic brethren - with Gere and Lane's irresistibly charismatic work certainly playing a significant role in the movie's success. The pedestrian build-up eventually gives way to a surprisingly powerful third act, as certain revelations - obvious as they may be, in retrospect - prove to be quite potent in their impact and ensure that the film ultimately earns a place for itself within the pantheon of effectively stirring romantic tearjerkers.