Review: Old pro scores with another hit up middle

Sep 17, 2012, 5:27 PM

The Hollywood Reporter

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Clint Eastwood’s first film as an actor for a director other than himself since “In the Line of Fire” in 1993, “Trouble With the Curve” is a corny, conventional and quite enjoyable father-daughter reconciliation story set mostly in the minor league baseball world of the South.

Playing a sort of PG-13-rated version of his ornery coot in “Gran Torino,” Eastwood is vastly entertaining as an old-fashioned scout who disdains computers and fancy statistical charts in favor of his own time-tested instincts. Making his directorial debut, Eastwood’s longtime producer Rob Lorenz knows just how to pitch the story to take advantage of the humorous side of his star’s obstinate crankiness, and Amy Adams makes a good match as the career-driven daughter with festering resentments.

As in “Gran Torino” four years ago, Eastwood does not hesitate to spotlight the debilitations of old age, in fact doing so right off the bat as his Gus Lobel patiently coaxes out a morning pee, struggles with vision problems and stumbles into a coffee table at his modest home. A legendary baseball scout responsible for discovering some major stars in his day, Gus is one of the last of the cigar-chompers, a guy who relies on what he sees, hears and intuits but, with just three months left on his contract with the Atlanta Braves, “may be ready for pasture.” Anybody who’s seen “Moneyball” will know which side of the table he sits on.

His only kid, conspicuously named Mickey (Amy Adams), is a high-powered young Atlanta lawyer on the verge of becoming a partner at her firm. Still stewing over having been palmed off on relatives when her mother died young so Gus could continue to troll the minors for talent, Mickey has commitment issues with men and the last thing this workaholic could imagine is accompanying her dad through southern backwaters on what could be his final swing. But her old man’s pal (John Goodman) talks her into it, suggesting that it could be a last chance to patch things up.

First-time screenwriter Randy Brown puts his players on base and then comes through with what feels like a solid hit through the infield that scores a couple of runs. When Mickey joins her dad in North Carolina, their nearly every exchange almost immediately turns into an argument that ends with her stomping out and him telling her to go home. But good sense and some interesting developments keep her around: A former recruit of Gus’s, Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), who made it to the bigs, then threw his arm out and is now a Red Sox scout, starts hound-dogging Mickey. She has great baseball sense herself and, alongside Gus, evaluates the season’s top prospect, Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill), a beefy slugger who hits it out nearly every time he comes up to the plate.

Filming in a charming old minor league park and peppering the stands with veteran baseball guys provides nice echoes of the game the way it used to be, and it feels good when director Lorenz also brings his star back to the sort of working class settings _ Southern honkytonks, pool halls, cheap motels, cut-rate sports facilities _ where his characters used to spend a good deal of time. In a modest, appealing way, “Trouble With the Curve” is another last-stand-of-the-old-timers movie, which might include “Gran Torino,” “Space Cowboys” and “In the Line of Fire,” with Eastwood as actor and sometimes director, in which experience, intuition and character get to carry the day against technology, numbers and other newfangled developments.

Even though he’s still in the minors, the outsized Gentry amusingly carries on as if he already knows he’s the new century’s Babe Ruth, refusing to low-five his third base coach when he hits homers and boasting of glories to come. But despite his deteriorating vision, Gus has suspicions, as suggested by the film’s title, that Gentry has a fatal weakness. It’s a conviction he shares with Mickey, who herself contributes to her father’s cause in a surprising, if somewhat far-fetched, way.

Having begun with Eastwood as a second assistant director on “The Bridges of Madison County” in 1995 and working as a producer or executive producer on his films since 2002, Lorenz knows well his collaborator’s strengths as an actor and doesn’t stray far from the style and tone customary at Malpaso, Eastwood’s production company. This is a handsomely directed film; there’s a nice crispness to the pacing and images, as Lorenz keeps things moving briskly and has had house cinematographer Tom Stern move away from his recent darker, more subdued look to a brighter, fuller palette, which suits the vibrant characters and settings.

Adams scores as the career woman who’s a tomboy at heart and discovers some new horizons by breaking with her routine. Timberlake is energetic but too puppy-doggish as her eager suitor; given Johnny’s background as a failed would-be baseball player, some shades of regret and disappointment would have deepened the characterization. Distinctive character actors such as Goodman; Matthew Lillard, playing a Braves scouting executive contemptuous of Gus’s antiquated ways; and Robert Patrick, as the team’s hardnosed GM, are hardly tested but lend weight to the supporting cast.

But, of course, the show belongs to Eastwood. Still physically fit enough to pitch to his daughter for fun, Gus may be an anachronism but, like the actor who plays him, he remains a force to contend with. And despite his hard-headedness, he’s also able to see that it’s never too late to open up to Mickey. His medical issues are unrealistically shoved aside at the end, which might have benefited from a melancholy undercurrent, but the result is satisfying in an old-fashioned way, which also might be part of the point.

“Trouble With the Curve,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking. Running time: 110 minutes.

Motion Picture Association of America rating definition for PG-13: Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

___

Online:

http://thr.com/node/358642

http://thr.com/node/369061

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE -  A Goodyear tire sits on display at a tire shop on Feb. 12, 2014, in South Euclid, Ohio. A f...
Associated Press

Arizona lawyer subpoenaed in criminal investigation of Goodyear tires

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles is gathering evidence in a criminal investigation of Goodyear recreational vehicle tires.
1 day ago
Following days of rain, floodwaters cover streets in the Planada community of Merced County, Calif....
Associated Press

Atmospheric rivers in California boost water allocation for cities

Public water agencies in California will be getting more water from the state because of recent heavy rain.
1 day ago
(Brian Munoz/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)...
Associated Press

FDA declines to regulate CBD; calls on Congress for fix

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday there are too many unknowns about CBD products to regulate them as foods or supplements under the agency’s current structure and called on Congress to create new rules for the massive and growing market. The marijuana-derived products have become increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures and foods, while their […]
1 day ago
FILE - An employee works in the battery assembly hall at the BMW Spartanburg plant in Greer, S.C., ...
Associated Press

US economy slowed but still grew at 2.9% rate last quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.9% annual pace from October through December, ending 2022 with momentum despite the pressure of high interest rates and widespread fears of a looming recession. Thursday’s estimate from the Commerce Department showed that the nation’s gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of economic output — […]
1 day ago
(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)...
Associated Press

Pope Francis discusses his health, critics and future of papacy

In his first interview since the death of retired Pope Benedict XVI, Francis tells The Associated Press he plans to continue for as long as he can as bishop of Rome
2 days ago
Eric Sham visits a makeshift memorial on Tuesday, January 24, 2023 for those killed in a mass shoot...
Associated Press

US Secret Service releases report on mass attacks

A new report on mass attacks calls for communities to intervene early when they see warning signs of violence.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Review: Old pro scores with another hit up middle