Trouble With Curve: Eastwood as Actor

At 82, Clint Eastwood is not only one of the few actorsof his age to be working steadily, but also one who continues to develop, benefiting from his already known and musch praised sense of ease and naturalism in front of the camera..

I am talking about Eastwood the actor, not Eastwood the director, who is one of the most accomplished and senior filmmakers around.  Eastwood, for some reason, has mostly appeared as thespian in features directed by him  (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Unforgiven”).

If memory served the last time he starred as an actor in somebody else’s work was in “In the Line of Fire,” directed by Wolfgang Petersen, in 1993.  Though he payed the lead in that thriller, it’s John Malkovich (as the villain) who walked away with the good reviews–and Oscar nomination.

As an actor, Eastwood has often cast himself opposite strong character actresses (Shirley MacLaine in “Two Mules for Sister Sara,” Geraldine Page in “The Outlaw Josie Wales,” Ruth Gordon in “Every Which Way But Loose” and the sequel).  And now, in the two-generational family melodrama, he appears with one of the most charming nd gifted actresses in Hollywood, the lovely, three-rime Oscar nominee Amy Adams (most recently in “The Doubt” and in “The Fighter”).  Adams can be seen to an advantage right now in Paul Thomas omy o”The Master”).

“Trouble with the Curve” marks the feature directorial debut of Eastwood’s longtime producing partner Robert Lorenz, who at 45 makes a decent if not spectacular impression in his capacities as director.  His work lacks the sharp precision and economic efficiency of the mise-en-scene of Eastwood the director.

Thematically, “Trouble with Curve” is a conventional, old-fashioned father-daughter melodrama, a predictable genre item, with some humor thrown in, which is elevated considerably by the high-caliber acting (The ensemble also includes Justin Timerlake of “Social Network” fame).

Eastwood plays Gus Lobel, one of the best, most experienced scouts in baseball. Though aware of his advancing age, Gus refuses to acknowledge the inevitable physical and mental limitations that come along with it.  However, despite his efforts to hide it, age is starting to catch up with him.

A proud man, Gus could tell a pitch just by the crack of the bat, but he now seems to refuses to be benched for what could be the final phase of his career.  His anxiety represents a combination of arrogance, pride (macho image), professional competence and experience, self-reliance and independence for years.  Could he go on this way for another couple of years?  Is it a matter of choice?

Not really: The front office of the Atlanta Braves is starting to question Gus’s judgment, especially with the country’s hottest batting phenomenon on deck for the draft.

It appears that the only person who might be able to help is also the one person Gus would never ask: his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), a smart, powerful associate at an Atlanta law firm whose drive and ambition has put her on the fast track to becoming partner.

Predictably, when the saga begins, father and daughter are estranged. Mickey has never been close to her father, who was ill-equipped to be a single parent after the death of his wife. Even now, when they rarely meet, their interaction follows an unpleasant pattern. Gus is too easily distracted by what Mickey assumes is his first love: the game.  No matter how their social encounter begin, they also devolved into arguments, disagreements, and lack of respect for each other’s opinion or conduct.

Against her better judgment, and over Gus’s objections, Mickey joins him on his latest scouting trip to North Carolina, jeopardizing her own career to save his. Forced to spend time together for the first time in years, each makes new discoveries—revealing long-held truths about their past and present that could change their future.

Adding color to the proceedings is Justin Timberlake, as Johnny Flanagan, a rival scout who has his sights on a career in the announcer’s booth, not to mention his growing attraction for Mickey, which explains why Gus naturally perceives him as a multi-threatening fellow. Inadvertently, Flanagan rekindles Gus’ feelings and instincts as a father.

The main cast also includes John Goodman as Gus’s old friend and boss, Pete Klein, and Matthew Lillard as Phillip Sanderson, the Braves’ associate director of scouting.

Judging by this workmanlike debut, it’s hard to tell how gifted a filmmaker is Lorenz, who seems to have simply transfer onto the big screen the sentimental, and occasionally corny scenario by Randy Brown.

Playing the growling Gus is Eastwood’s first on-screen role since “Gran Torino,” in 2008, his biggest commercial success to date. Admittedly, there are not many good roles in Hollywood for actors of Eastwood’s age—the late, great Paul Newman also suffered from this lack in the last decade of his career, and Eastwood’s contemporary, Burt Reynolds, all but vanished as a thespian.

On the plus side, there’s very strong chemistry between Eastwood and Adams, as his feisty offspring.  Jointly, they make the father-daughter melodramatic journey more entertaining than it has the right to be.