How apropos that Sandra Bullock won her first Academy award for Best Actress for this great film. I was surely blind-sided!
Yeah, I admit, I loved this film but I thought she hadn't a chance. Too many ugly politics in Hollywood. Glad I was wrong.
This low-budget film could almost be called evangelical, in fact. It is the story of a poorly educated black teen who gets entrance into Briarcrest, a prestigious private Christian school in Memphis, TN (my hometown).
Thanks to the care and concern of a well-to-do Christian family, he is brought into their home, their life and like all good fariy-tales, it changes their lives and his life forever. He goes on to college and to fame and fortune.
Nice thing is: it is true. Yeah - this poor young man went on to play for Ole Miss and then to be one of the highest paid NFL players in the league.
Like Facing the Giants and Fireproof, small films made by the Baptist Church that "thought it should", this wears not only the mantle but the message of compassionate Christianity: we are blessed to be a blessing - and if you want to change a life, you have to get involved in it.
For all that, it is not preachy. The only overt reference to Christianity is when Mrs. Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) locates 'Big Mike's long-absent mother.
It is a real-life depiction that is heart-shattering. The woman is ashamed of her arrangement, but is gracious to her visitor. She excuses her appearance as 'medical issues' when in fact it is drugs. She loves her children, but just can't keep up with all TWELVE of them. She is a child living in squalor herself. Mrs. Tuohy makes no judgments, but only wants to let the mother know she wants to take care of Michael, to adopt him, if she will let her. She wants him to have a good education and stay with them.
Michael's mother is - as is often in such cases - stunned and surprised at the offer. She knows she is a failure as a caregiver; she cannot give Michael those things. But that this well-heeled white lady would come to ask her permission? It floors her.
"You a good Christian woman." she says admiringly at last.
"Well... I try," admits Teouhy.
Bullock plays it perfectly. Grateful for the compliment, but perfectly aware she's not "gentle as a lamb." We see her fierceness later in confronting a truly despicable ex-friend of Michael's in a later scene.
I remember Memphis. I remember living and working with the boys that we tried to rescue from the lifestyes of their parents. You could not just talk to them; you had to go live with them and give them a new place to live and grow.
I had a 'Michael.'
But his name was James.
And he left all of his old life behind to go to college and play football, too.
I remember finding that out. I remember the joy in knowing that had happened.
So you see - miracles DO happen.
And you will see one too if you decide to trust God, love Him and love your neighbor as yourself.