22 September 2012 | StevePulaski
A possible pioneer
It pains me to say that I've already heard many people say they will not be seeing Trouble with the Curve because of Clint Eastwood's "antics" at the Republican National Convention just a few weeks ago. Their loss. Not being able to separate the man from the actor is something that took me a while to do, but the way some do it now is childish and immature. I wonder if those same people knew Eastwood was a Libertarian/Republican when he was playing "Dirty Harry." Hard to believe it has been nineteen years since Eastwood himself acted in a film he has not directed. He lends the camera to Robert Lorenz, who assisted him in directing much of Eastwood's filmography, including Flags of Our Fathers and the acclaimed Best Picture winner Million Dollar Baby. Lorenz's captures screenwriter Randy Brown's simple but uplifting, intimate story of a man's devotion to a game and his brewing reconnection with his daughter he seemingly abandoned at a young age.
I'll catch you up; Eastwood plays Gus Lobel, an elderly scout for the Atlanta Braves baseball team, who is becoming increasingly frail and ill-equipped with deteriorating eyesight. The Braves are losing faith in Gus's abilities, because in recent years, baseball has been run more by computer predictions and online statistics rather than physically sitting in the stands and scouting. Gus doesn't hold back on his hatred for computers, making them sound like limited fossils and being unable to predict more detailed outcomes. One wonders if he is mindlessly ranting or wouldn't even like a computer if he knew how to use one.
Pete, played by John Goodman, on a roll now with winning films, is Gus's close friend who is convincing the Braves' organization that despite Gus's poor eyesight, that he is an invaluable asset and needs to stay. He recruits Gus's daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), to assist him in scouting a young prodigy in North Carolina, who currently plays for a high school team. Mickey's mother died when she was young and shortly after, Gus sent her to live with relatives whom she barely knew. During the scouting trip, Mickey winds up meeting one of Gus's friends whom he used to scout back in the day, named Johnny "The Flame" Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), for his one-hundred mile-an-hour fastball. We can see where this is headed.
We can see where much of the film is headed throughout its runtime but it's scarcely a burden because the warmth and bold character study on three of 2012's most interesting characters is a soothing and efficient one. Eastwood turns in the racism and foul rants he expertly utilized in Gran Torino for some nuanced anger as Gus, and as always, comes off as charismatic and effortlessly likable. Amy Adams does some fine work here, showing us that she is an up-and-coming female actress that is going under the radar, somewhat like Emily Blunt, and fearlessly plays the role of a woman in desperate need of answers, which her father will not give her. And Justin Timberlake continues to show is versatility and heart playing a totally different character from his last one and hitting every note properly.
It would appear that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin could have possibly started a new trend with sports films that was seldom seen before his film Moneyball, and that trend is centering a story around a sport but making the center the characters and not the on-field theatrics. Never are we truly consumed in the story of this young scouter, but we shouldn't be. And never were we truly gripped by the Oakland Athletics players in Moneyball - mainly because we never saw them play or were even formally acquainted with them. Both films center around the same sport, but ones' agenda is to show the gritter business side of baseball, while the other is the story of a father and daughter reconnecting with the sport in the foreground. With both films, it's needless to say, I'm all for this brewing trend.
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, Matthew Lillard, and John Goodman. Directed by: Robert Lorenz.