Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reel To Reel: Trouble With The Curve

"What a drag it is getting old." --The Rolling Stones

Going Rate: Worth matinee price
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Language, references to sex

I don't buy into conspiracy theories, but part of me believes Clint Eastwood's now-famous empty-chair interview at the Republican National Convention was stealth marketing for this film, which just happens to feature Eastwood as a grumpy old man similar to the gritty old pol we saw on stage. I thought Gran Torino might be his last film in front of the camera. I'm glad it wasn't.

Eastwood plays Gus, a baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves who refuses to believe it's time to retire. His vision is going, and he can barely get around without tripping over something. Those dents on the car are not his fault; the garage shrunk on him. His bosses, including longtime buddy Pete (Goodman), aren't sure he can handle a blockbuster assignment: scouting a high-school slugger in the Carolinas who's supposedly the baseball equivalent of LeBron James. It becomes clear this may be Gus' last assignment.

He's mildly estranged from his daughter Mickey (Adams), a workaholic lawyer aiming to make partnership with a presentation on a big case. Gus' stubbornness maddens her, and she carries a grudge for Dad sending her away after the death of her mother. Still, she can't help but feel a responsibility towards him. Prodded on by Pete (Goodman), Gus' longtime boss and friend, Mickey heads off to join her father on the scouting trip to make sure he comes back alive, at least.

Trouble With The Curve would be fine as a father-daughter baseball movie. But no, we get a tacked-on romantic subplot featuring Johnny (Timberlake), one of Gus' scouting buddies who's got his eye on Mickey. The two bond over baseball stats, which I find a little puzzling given Mickey's frazzled relationship with her father. What do I know: Mickey's talents as a lawyer likely give her the power to process reams of information in ways I haven't considered. Timberlake's character seems to be along for the ride, pushed in Mickey's direction because somebody thought this film needed another plot hook.

Eastwood, on the other hand, has still got it. He's grizzled and a bit slower but still a compelling screen figure. I wanted this film to be about rebuilding a relationship, and baseball lends itself nicely to allegory in so many things. But at the end of the day, it comes down to studio heads knitting their fingers about younger audiences, and a call goes out to Timberlake's people. I really hope this isn't Eastwood's last-last picture on screen. I also hope some suit realizes old guys still rule.

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