It’s not impossible that critics (and some amateur reviewers) were unswayed by Eastwood’s speech to an empty chair at the RNC when reviewing Trouble With The Curve but I wouldn’t put any money on it. The criticism, raised also by The Boy, is that it’s “by the numbers”. And it’s true, there aren’t a lot of surprises in this film.
The Flower loved it. Doubtless because she’s an Eastwood fan (Gran Torino is the movie by which all others are measured) but also doubtless because it’s not stale for her.
However, I also loved it, and I’ll get to why after a quick capsule.
Trouble With The Curve is the story of a baseball scout (Eastwood) who’s losing his vision and being threatened by an up-and-coming geeky number cruncher (Matthew Lillard of Scooby-Doo). His longtime bud and team manager (John Goodman, The Artist) goes to bat for him with the Big Boss (Robert Patrick, Autopsy), but then asks his daughter (Amy Adams, Sunshine Cleaning Company) to tag along with him to North Carolina, where a hot young slugger is coming up from the minors. On the road, they meet a charming young scout (Justin Timberlake, In Time).
The father/daughter relationship is the key thing here. Widowed when his daughter was only six, Eastwood’s Gus dragged his daughter Mickey with him from state to state, and game to game, until deciding to send her to an aunt and uncle, then later to boarding school. Mickey’s still wrestling with the feelings from this, having gotten a law degree and spent seven years with 6-day-a-week-workweeks trying to get a partnership in a Big Law Firm.
As I said, there’s no real surprise here; it felt like an old school Hollywood film. Almost all the characters are likable and even the small parts are played by familiar faces like George Wyner and Chelcie Ross.
So, why did I like it so much? The relationship between Gus and Mickey is excellently done. First, big props to Amy Adams, who is by turns a tough lawyer, a vulnerable woman, a little girl, a sassy teen—she basically plays out a lifetime in this one role. Eastwood does a similar trick, by turns seeming like his old self (say, ca. 1980), imposing and sorta dangerous, but at other times frail and unbelievably old.
The brilliance of this movie is in the direction and camerawork that plays all these ages of Gus and Mickey against each other. Eastwood and Adams have a wonderful chemistry and, perhaps surprisingly for a Clint Eastwood movie, the film is a character study and an acting showcase, and it kept me captivated through the satisfyingly predictable story arc.
Timberlake is good, too. I feel like I have to mention that because every time I read a review of a movie with him in it, they say “Justin Timberlake is really talented, dammit!” (I guess the rancor is due to his early success as a teen heartthrob or his deflowering of Britney, but I think it’s time to let that go. Dude can act and is unsurprisingly convincing as a charming suitor.)
This is the first time at the helm for frequent Eastwood assistant director, Robert Lorenz, and it reminds a bit of The Thing From Another World, in the sense that the ‘50s sci-fi horror flick had Howard Hawks’ fingerprints all over it, just as this has many of Eastwood’s trademarks.
Not a bad thing, in either case.
I can’t say it’s for everyone because some people couldn’t care less about the character studies. But we all enjoyed it, even if the Boy felt it was slow in parts.