Cat! Jose Silerio scouted this past weekend’s #1 hit.
If there ever was a surprise film of the season, it has to be The Blind Side. In fact, its remarkable run was even made more remarkable because it ended up number one at the box office after three weeks, a feat almost unheard of.
So, what did I think of The Blind Side? Honestly, I’m not sure. It definitely doesn’t have any of those big hooks you would find in a movie that’s grossed more than $100 million. (The Blind Side has already made $130 million.) No fancy special effects, no mind-boggling story twists, no big stars except for Cat! fave Sandra Bullock (but remember her last release, All About Steve, didn’t do too well), no aliens, no vampires, no zombies, no big explosions or car chases, no bloody rampages or kick-ass martial arts stunt sequences. Here I was sitting in the movie theater waiting and waiting and waiting for that … that thing that’s made this movie such a sleeper hit.
Adapted by John Lee Hancock (The Alamo, The Rookie), The Blind Side is not your daddy’s sports movie — it’s a story about relationships and emotions, about the triumph of the spirit and the potential for greatness that lies within us all. That’s where its magic comes from. The Blind Side doesn’t mesmerize us with the fancy camerawork of game shots that ESPN would be proud of, or last second game- winning touchdowns. It simply focuses on the primal, resonant stories of mother and child and husband and wife, and on the magic of transformation. Simple. Straightforward. STC!-certified structured. It’s called a story. And that’s what The Blind Side has: a simple straightforward story that is emotional, well structured, and well told. It has resonance.
Let’s go quickly through the beats:
The Set-Up introduces us to Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), an African American teenager coming from the wrong side of the tracks, abandoned by his crack-dependent mom and living on the couch of a neighbor. We are then introduced to Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) and Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw), an affluent white family caught in their world of private schools and sheltered lives. Opposites coming together.
Then comes the “double bump” that serves as twin Catalysts, which bring our two main characters together. First, Michael gets thrown out of the house where he has been living; and second, Leigh Anne sees Michael wandering in the freezing night, looking for a place to be warm.
The Break into Two comes when Leigh Anne decides to take Michael to her home. Welcome to your new world, Leigh Anne and Michael. And this is exactly what the Fun & Games is all about. Leigh Anne discovers the world Michael is from – the poverty, the drugs… the projects. She even says, “I’ve lived in Memphis all my life and never been anywhere near here.”
Michael learns what it’s like to be part of a family — and he learns to play football for the first time. Their bond begins to grow.
The Midpoint stake is raised when Leigh Anne decides to be Michael’s legal guardian. No turning back now, right?
In Bad Guys Close In, Leigh Anne learns the circumstance of Michael’s background; Michael learns that football can be cruel, not just violent; and as the college coaches come recruiting, Michael must pull his grades up if he is to make it to a Division I college.
The All Is Lost comes when a NCAA investigation makes Michael question Leigh Anne’s true intentions as to why she took him in. He runs off and she doesn’t follow. Girl loses boy. Mom loses son.
Break into Three is all about getting back what she lost, as Leigh Anne gets in her car and searches for Michael.
The Finale finds Michael back in the projects. Changed by his experience with the Tuohys, he defends their honor when a neighborhood gangbanger insults them. Leigh Anne returns to the projects, and when the same gangbanger confronts her, she becomes what this story is truly all about: She is a Mother defending her Son. This wasn’t her world, hers was not his, but now, they are Family. No one will ever hurt him again. And that’s the Hightower Surprise the gangbanger didn’t see coming.
And with a true Dig-Deep-Down moment, just as any mother learning to let her son go for the first time, Leigh Anne tells Michael, “I want you to go wherever you want. It’s your decision. It’s your life.” The moment is emotional. It’s primal. It works… every time.
Maybe The Blind Side is not your kind of movie. But if there’s anything you can take from it — and its success at the box office — it’s that a well told story still trumps everything else.
So, look at what you’re writing. If you take out all the special effects, out-of-this-world art designs, or amazing stunts, are you still telling a story that keeps us listening? CG is nice, but story is better. Because a well-structured story will always protect your blind side — just like a really good left tackle.
P.S. Don’t forget to check out the final STC! Contest for 2009 for a chance to win Save the Cat! Strikes Back and other STC! goodies. Submit your entries before the deadline on December 19, Midnight PST!
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