Monday, September 24

REVIEW: Trouble with the Curve

Directed by Robert Lorenz
1 hour 41 mins
From Warner Bros.

Clint Eastwood
Amy Adams
Justin Timberlake
John Goodman
Matthew Lillard
Robert Patrick

No one would ever confuse me with being a fan of baseball .   Furthermore, I am adrift on coming up with some witty baseball metaphor to start you off on this review.  Certainly fans of Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams and baseball will find something to like here.  If one is not a baseball fan, I don't think you'll be too bothered with the ball diamond scenes.  If one is a fan, I suspect you'll enjoy the behind-the-scenes machinations that go on in the sport and the baseball trivia that is tossed around throughout the proceedings.

The main thrust of the story, however, is the father-daughter relationship that is fragile and full of regret coupled with love and hope and finally forgiveness.  I think women who have had trouble with fathers, particularly absent ones, and those who now have older fathers who are curmudgeons, will find something here to light a fire.

The daughter is an attorney, up for a partnership in her firm, who studied law essentially to please her old man.   She was six when her mother died and then she went to live with an uncle.  The father reunited with her for a short while but ended up putting her in boarding school.  As an adult she would like nothing more than to get him to open up, be purposeful, share a loving, even playful life together in whatever way that's possible. 

He is shown as being emotionally distant, not vacant really, but distant.  Despite signs to the contrary, he wants to give his daughter what she wants.  In his way, he may want it too, but like all crabby, old men, he's not sure he has the skill set to do that. 

His life has been about baseball.  As a scout he was off to every rundown,  weedy baseball field in every little dirtbag town across America.  He didn't think these were any places he wanted to raise a daughter.  He thought he was doing the right thing by putting her with relatives.

She has spent a lifetime feeling neglected and compromised and unloved.  With him being her original male relationship, she has taken all she has learned and not learned into every male relationship since that time, both with boyfriends and others.

With that as some background, the story unfolds as the old man is feeling the old part in spades, flush with a new wave of crabbiness, and not liking it very well.  His eyesight is failing and one wonders how he will sit in the stands and gauge the talents on the farm teams if he can't see them.  The daughter joins him on the road in the hopes of solving some of his problems while getting to the root of some of hers.

Nobody plays curmudgeon better than Clint Eastwood.  As a young actor he was a curmudgeon and he was the same as a middle-aged one and he's reached curmudgeon emeritus status now, let's face it.  Since he's not staring down nasty neighbors or bad cops or killers or girlfriends with scissors or hateful governments, he is a bit softer here.  I even saw a few smiles (no noise, just facial movements).   There was a scene at his wife's gravesite that was very, very touching.  Nice to see the old boy play such a scene so effectively.  There was more in the final scenes equally moving.

My take is the central character is actually the daughter and Amy Adams pulls it off with her usual aplomb.  I think I have clued you in on a couple of other posts that I am pretty crazy about Amy Adams.  Such an honest actress, she inhabits the people she plays.  Whether one always likes her characters or not, she is able to give all in her arsenal in expressing who that character is in ways that compel me to never take my eyes off her.  She has one of the most expressive faces in the business.   In any given scene with another actor, I would rather observe Adams react than watch most others act.

I like Justin Timberlake as an actor.  He is good here but unfortunately the role is not of much importance to the plot itself and could actually have been edited out except that he is the love interest.  It cracks me up to even type those words.  Women for as long as movies have been made have played the love interest, with little else said about their roles.  Well, Timberlake is the love interest.

John Goodman, a most effective character actor, shines as a league bigwig, a friend of Eastwood's, who is concerned about his welfare.  I wish Matthew Lillard would work more; he, too, is great fun to watch, this time as another league bigwig but not as winning as Goodman.

Directorial credits have been given to one Robert Lorenz,  his first assignment.  But since he has worked with Eastwood countless times as an assistant director and since Eastwood is the star and his Malpaiso Productions is producing the film, the big guy's stamp is everywhere.

I don't want to overreach here.  Trouble with the Curve is not likely to be an award-winner.  I thought it stalled a bit in the middle but then breezed along to a fun and satisfying conclusion.  It's a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.


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