CINEMA: by Symeon J. ThompsonNews Weekly
Well-crafted tale about an ageing pro
, December 22, 2012
Trouble with the Curve (rated M), starring Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams, is reviewed by Symeon Thompson.
Clint Eastwood is one ornery old coot. Chatting with empty chairs, railing against the decline in standards and the rise of technology, he’s a guffaw-inducing, grumpy old man. In Trouble with the Curve he plays an ageing, baseball scout — although “plays” is probably the wrong word. In all likelihood, he’s just being himself, and what a self he is.
Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) is a legendary baseball scout who still travels from country game to country game. He has no time for the high-falutin’ high-tech mechanised mathematical analysis that’s coming to the fore. He’s an old raging bull, and one that some of upstart young ’uns, such as a particularly slimy Philip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard), are keen to put to pasture.
Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood), right, with his estranged daughter
Mickey (Amy Adams).
Gus is estranged from his high-powered high-flying lawyer daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), well on her way to being made the youngest partner at her firm. They don’t even have arguments when they meet, as that would require them to talk seriously. But Gus is having problems with his eyes, which of course he’s hiding, and so his friend and boss Pete Klein (John Goodman) encourages Mickey to join him on what may very well be his last scouting expedition.
Along the way there are the other old scouts, the hot new young scout Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), the lawyer-types from Mickey’s firm and the variety of players and hangers-on that make up the baseball scene.
This movie is no Gran Torino; but then, it oughtn’t to be. It’s not directed by Clint, but by one of his close collaborators, Robert Lorenz. It’s got the Eastwood tone of supreme cinematic craftsmanship, but isn’t as ambitious or imaginative as his own movies.
It treads similar ground to 2008’s Gran Torino with its widowed crotchety protagonist who has trouble relating to his children, or with the modern world in general, and who can have a very definite response to those he considers a threat to his loved ones. His best line: “Now get out before I have a heart-attack trying to kill ya.”
Since Eastwood started directing his own films, he has gained a reputation as one of the great movie-makers. Clint knows how to spin a compelling cinematic yarn, and usually they’re close to technically flawless. The scripts may not always be superb, but they’re always well worth the price of admission.
This is an astonishing achievement these days, recalling the times when movie-making was a master’s craft, like the cathedrals built by the medievals — and, even more incredibly, they’re always under-budget and ahead of schedule. He therefore has a flawless relationship with the studios — another amazing thing these days.
Lorenz has been assisting Eastwood on his movies for years. This movie, therefore, has a similarly high level of craftsmanship. Everything works together — the script, the cinematography, the score. It’s not florid and baroque, like the work of P.T. Anderson — except for The Master, which was so disappointing this reviewer couldn’t even bring himself to review it — or ultra-restrained like the ascetic French auteur Robert Bresson. It is a masterly piece of craft, and therefore a real work of art.
The acting is excellent — simple and straightforward. Justin Timberlake continues to show himself to be a most versatile young man, playing the former pitcher-turned-scout who hopes to be an announcer. Amy Adams is delightful. John Goodman is stout and loyal. Michael Madsen plays the sort of fair-minded boss you’d love to have. And Clint is, well, Clint.
Certain critics have carped at aspects of the story they say are “predictable”, but that is not such a bad thing. The plots of the ancient Athenians were well-known to all, and their power was in their execution not in their “innovation”. A tale well-told is still a tale well-told, even if it’s told again and again and again.
At the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) last year, a lecturer remarked that he doesn’t like ballet, but was blown away by Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (very ably reviewed in these pages by Siobhan Reeves — see News Weekly, February 5, 2011). The lecturer’s reason was that Black Swan is not about ballet, but about primal human themes.
This can also be said of Trouble with the Curve. Technically it’s a movie about baseball; but really it’s about fathers and daughters, the young and the old, and the perils of hubris and silence. That is the essence of story-telling and our human existence — the ordinary reflects the extraordinary, the beautiful is shown in the everyday, and ultimate truth permeates through all things. It’s just a matter of bringing it out.
I was set the task to find something family-friendly for this last review of the year for News Weekly. I had to watch a few movies to find this one, and it fills the bill beautifully. Merry Christmas!