Quinton Aaron: other star of The Blind Side
Film of the Week: Hollywood newcomer ‘holds his own’ against Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock
Sandra Bullock's best actress Oscar - and the subsequent headline-grabbing news about her husband's affairs - have served to hide another aspect of The Blind Side, which opens in Britain this week. In a generally unappetising, old-fashioned "inspirational" movie, there’s a standout performance from a newcomer called Quinton Aaron.
The Blind Side recounts the true story of how Leigh Anne Tuohy, a feisty right-wing Southern businesswoman, rescued a homeless black teenager, Michael Oher (played by Aaron), from the streets of Memphis and set him on the path to college football stardom. Oher went on to play for the Baltimore Ravens.
When Tuohy meets Oher he is an immense and introverted teen - inevitably sparking comparisons with that other recent drama about an overweight, illiterate African-American adolescent who transcends downtrodden origins, Precious.
In fact, Quinton Aaron's own real-life journey to landing the role in The Blind Side is also the stuff of a Hollywood script. Aaron, 25, was close to being made homeless himself when he won the part of Michael Oher. At 6ft 8in and 33 stone he was even bigger than Oher (who was a mere 25 stone as a teenager) and was struggling to make it as an actor.
At the audition in Los Angeles, Aaron was so desperate for a job that he handed the film's director, John Lee Hancock, his card in the hope that he might at least pick up some security work.
Back in Georgia, a year passed before Aaron heard that he had the job, during which time his mother died and he was unable to pay his rent. Days before he was about to be evicted, he got the call from Hancock.
The movie may be Bullock's but Quinton Aaron has impressed the critics. Variety's Joe Leydon says that the young actor "more than holds his own" opposite the Hollywood stalwart.
However many reviewers have bemoaned the sparseness of Aaron's role. While The Blind Side purports to be about Oher's remarkable life story, the film is ultimately a self-congratulatory tale about Tuohy and her football-obsessed family. AO Scott of the New York Times called it "a two-hour holiday greeting card".
And as Christopher Goodwin reported for The First Post before the Oscars, such are Tuohy’s right-wing politics and Christian views that the film has been most popular with fans of Sarah Palin.
WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING:
Cosmo Landesman, the Sunday Times: "Bullock has managed a remarkable acting first: she has made her character, a white Republican Christian, appealing. And that’s like making Sarah Palin lovable." (3/5 stars)
Peter Bradshaw, the Guardian: "There is a rich, complex story to be told about Michael Oher, and his mentor, Leigh Anne Tuohy. But this waxwork parade isn't it." (1/5 stars)
Nigel Andrews, the Financial Times: "This film pushes all the buttons, resolves all the issues and shows that America, for all its loudhailed Christianity, doesn’t really need God at all. It just needs Sandra Bullock and her like." (2/5 stars)
Trevor Johnston, Time Out: "Quite how Sandra Bullock deserved an Oscar for her one-note turn as bleached supermum Leigh-Anne is a mystery, since it transforms a potentially worthwhile character study into a grandstanding star vehicle." (2/5 stars)
Ian Freer, Empire: "Bullock's Leigh Anne is a feisty force of nature and she beautifully mixes up stinging sass, an iron will and unadulterated sentiment." (3/5 stars)