Clint Eastwood's new film Trouble With The Curve is the first on-screen featurre outing from the 82-year-old actor since his 2008 appearance in Gran Torino, which was billed as his swansong at the time. Rumours of Eastwood's imminent retirement having proved to be premature, the new film is a creditable effort, and a welcome relief from the sad summer blockbuster season we've just passed through.
That said, the plotline for this all-American baseball opus, opening on the threshold of the World Series, verges on the hackneyed and predictable. It's a pair of fine performances from Eastwood and his co-star, Amy Adams, that really saves the film and gives us something well worth watching.
Eastwood plays Gus Lobel, a veteran talent scout for the Atlanta Braves. He's been around the block, and he really knows his stuff. Only trouble is, he's on the verge of going blind, severely afflicted with glaucoma. Adams plays his daughter, Mickey (named after Mickey Mantle), a high-powered Atlanta lawyer who's been estranged from her stubborn and crusty father for a number of years.
Gus is assigned to scout out a hot new high-school talent in North Carolina by his boss and long-time friend Pete Klein (John Goodman), who also asks Mickey to come along. Klein senses that something is wrong with his old friend, and wants Mickey with him just in case.
This proves to be a wise decision, as Gus undergoes some close calls driving through the North Carolina countryside. Mickey is reluctant to accompany her father, given their rocky relationship, and the fact that she's on the verge of a partnership with her firm, if she does well with an upcoming case that demands her attention and presence in Atlanta. In the end, she gives in and joins her father, but receives little in the way of thanks from him.
The property he's scouting is a talented but totally obnoxious slugger named Bo Gentry, played by newcomer Joe Massingill (seen last season on TV's Glee series).
He's a home-run virtuoso, but Gus, with his years of experience and unerring instinct making up for his lack of sight, detects a fatal flaw in Gentry's performance, and gives him a thumbs-down, despite management's eagerness to sign him.
Justin Timberlake is the film's romantic interest for Mickey. He plays Johnny Flanagan, a former all-star Braves pitcher whom Gus once recruited and still gets along with. He's now a scout for a rival team, but hopes to land a job as a play-by-play announcer, since he can't pitch anymore due to throwing his arm out.
Their lives all merge together, as the drama of Gus and Mickey's antagonistic father-daughter relationship plays itself out, and she reluctantly seeks solace from her frustrations with the likeable and persistent Johnny.
Director Robert Lorenz manages to hold it all together. It's his first stab at directing a film, although he has worked together with Eastwood as his assistant director on his last 12 films, including Million Dollar Baby and The Bridges Of Madison County.
Amy Adams delivers a sensitive portrayal of an ambitious, driven, and self-confident attorney, who is nevertheless deeply wounded and spiritually vulnerable due to her father's constant physical and emotional absence as she grew up. Eastwood's Gus is the very embodiment of willful pride—a man so caught up in keeping his own emotions in check and presenting a hard-boiled image to the world that he almost misses his last chance for reconciliation with his daughter. They're a good team together, and they form the bond that surpasses formula and makes for a film that even non-baseball fans can root for.
Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.