MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVDs: Trouble With the Curve

PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (Also Blu-ray) (Three Stars)

U.S.: Robert Lorenz, 2012 (Warner Bros.)

He’s an old guy and he knows it and so do we. But he’s still got chops. And he can still surprise us. One of the first times we see Clint Eastwood, in his latest role as aging longtime baseball scout Gus Lobel in Trouble with the Curve, he’s talking to his penis, standing in the john, trying to coax his aging and now cantankerous prostate into action — and then cursing it out after he finally gets a decent stream. “I outlasted you, ya little bastard,” he says.  A classic Clint Line — full of macho bile, funny profanity and an edge covering that air of sweet geniality which is the flipside, or underside, or secret identity of his gruff “Don’t mess with me” Dirty Harry  persona.

Trouble With the Curve is Eastwood’s first role on screen since the  seemingly valedictory aging tough guy retiree part of Walt Kowalski in 2008’s Gran Torino. It’s a good role, and, for the most part, a good movie, even though it’s, at times, corny and predictable and full of clichés and a shameless star vehicle and yatta-yatta-yatta. Clichés don’t damage a movie as much as most people think though; what matters is how you play them. And, if anyone can liven up a gunfight or a bar-fight or a car-chase or a put-down, it’s Eastwood.

In this case, C. E. puts the juice into a predictable but very good-natured baseball movie about an old coot of a scout going blind and trying to hide it and hang on as the younger punks  in the Atlanta Braves front office try to shove him out the door. Meanwhile, stubborn Gus goes on the road to North Carolina to evaluate a supposed high school homer-hitting phenom, this time with the help of his very brainy, very pretty  lawyer daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), with whom he’s always had communication problems since her mom died when Mickey was 6, but with whom he now gets a chance to bond.

Wait a minute. Did I say that John Goodman is on board also as Gus’ best friend in the front office, chief of scouts Pete Klein, who keeps trying to save his buddy’s butt from the resident smart-ass, Philip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard), who’s angling for Pete’s job, and probably saw Moneyball five times and  sounds as if he should be on a yacht somewhere, sloshing a martini and putting moves on Mila Kunis. Or that Mickey has a likely beau in Johnny “The Flame” Flanagan (played by who else but Justin Timberlake), a one time flame-throwing pitcher whom Gus recruited and who blew out his arm in middle relief in the bigs and now is one of Gus’ rival scouts, working for the Red Sox? Or that there’s a bar scene where the bar regulars  do a clog dance and where some joker hits on Mickey at the pool table, and Gus rams him against the wall and wheezes “Now get the hell out of here before I have a heart attack trying to kill you.” (See what I mean about pros and clichés?)

Well, just don’t yell “Spoiler Alert” at me if I mention that the object of all these scouting reports and Machiavellian machinations, the home-run-hitting high school phenom Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill), is a pudgy ego-maniac who bullies his teammates, insults Mexican peanut vendors, acts like a real asshole, and maybe has — dare I say it — trouble hitting the curve ball.

Talk about clichés: It turns out that Mickey is named Mickey because her dad’s favorite player was Mickey Mantle, which inspires Johnny the Flame to a joke about how it’s a good thing her father’s favorite player wasn’t Yogi Berra. (It’s a good thing Gus’ favorite player wasn’t Fernando Valenzuela.)

Well, look, I’m not trying to be a smart-ass myself. I liked most of those scenes and all of those characters and most of the actors (especially Eastwood and Adams) — except for the final turn-about in the Braves stadium, an inspirational scene that strains credulity, as Yogi might have said,  to the point of credulity, But it almost works. And the whole movie might have been terrific, actually, if Eastwood had directed it as well as  produced and acted in it. Trouble with the Curve is one of those “little” movies he liked to make in his big star actor-director heyday: movies like the antic Bronco Billy and the melancholy Honkytonk Man — the more offbeat shows that pointed the way to his eventual prestige-laden post-Unforgiven career.

Eastwood was the producer here, and his director — the first time Clint has acted for somebody besides himself, since Wolfgang Petersen guided him In the Line of Fire — was Robert Lorenz, Eastwood’s long-time, but not aging, producer, assistant director and second unit director. This is obviously a “thank you” from the boss, giving Lorenz his shot, which he might have gotten anyway, but maybe not with the boss on screen. And Lorenz does a good job, just not a great one. Eastwood could obliterate clichés. Lorenz just lets them ride, and keeps us engaged until the next good scene (the ones, usually with Clint and Amy) come along. There’s a rumor that Eastwood was actually a secret director of the Eastwood-starring films made by company guys like James Fargo and Buddy Van Horn. But, although Trouble With the Curve is obviously influenced by Eastwood’s terse, clean, hard-edged style, and it’s obviously a project and a cast to his taste, I’d be surprised if, this time, he hadn’t just set the thing up and let Lorenz have his day. Of course, C. E. probably put his two cents worth in, every once in a while. After all, he was one of the producers.

Eastwood’s personality (a mixture of acid and playful machismo and idealism and professionalism) comes across in the character of Gus. Ever since Unforgiven, Eastwood has taken his star persona — one of the most potent in all movies — and exposed the flaws, and the foibles, and the hidden little kinks and contradictions beneath themt. When he stopped his regular acting chores in his movies, he subjected his directorial personality to the same tough re-examination. It’s not by accident that Republican Eastwood works so well, as a director, with lefties like Sean Penn and Tim Robbins in non-clichéd projects like Mystic River.

As long as we mentioned Republicans, and since Eastwood’s big media splash before Trouble was his Romney endorsement and his dialogue with the empty chair at the G. O. P. convention, and since I voted for Barack Obama, I might as well get in my two cents worth about the chair gig, where Clint pretended to gab with Obama, and correct his language and question his economic judgment.  I didn’t like it, not because I don’t think Clint can say whatever he wants about whatever he  wants, but because I didn’t think it was very funny. It felt like Eastwood’s shit detector had temporarily broken down, like he couldn‘t tell what a load of horse manure the Romney campaign and Fox News and their ilk were dumping on the public. He says he was just riffing, but, if he had a writer, he needed a better one.

My mother Edna was a lifelong Republican too, and every year until she was 93, whenever I could, I took her to the  polling station and I made sure she got to vote, even though I knew her Republican ballot was cancelling out my Democrat one. Then, in her last primary and her last election, she told me she voted both times for Obama, because she liked him on TV on MSNBC, which she watched because she thought Fox News was a travesty. Maybe she just wanted to make me feel good. She was a big Clint Eastwood fan too, and he was always very nice to her, whenever he met her in public. Like Obama , he’s a good politician. Well, maybe he has a little trouble with the curve sometimes.

Extras: Discussion between Eastwood and Lorenz;  Discussion with Adams and Timberlake.

One Response to “Wilmington on DVDs: Trouble With the Curve”

  1. Neutrality says:

    This is supposed to be a movie review. The first nine paragraphs were sufficient. Can we leave the politics out of it please?

Leave a Reply

Wilmington

Johanna Lynch on: Wilmington on DVDs: The File on Thelma Jordon; Adua and her Friends; Bullet to the Head

【14時までのご注文は即日発送】04-0017 03 48サイズ JILL STUART NEW YORK (ジルスチュアート ニュ on: Wilmington on DVDs: House of Wax (1953); After Earth; The Purge

【最安値に挑戦!】 ダイキン SSRN112BD4馬力相当 天井埋込カセット形 マルチフロ on: Wilmington on DVDs: House of Wax (1953); After Earth; The Purge

alain mikli アランミクリ メガネSTARCK EYES (スタルクアイズ) SH0001D カラー0053(正規品)【楽 on: Wilmington on DVDs: House of Wax (1953); After Earth; The Purge

【最安値に挑戦!】 ダイキンSZRN63BT2.5馬力相当 天井埋込カセット形 マルチフロ on: Wilmington on DVDs: House of Wax (1953); After Earth; The Purge

【着後レビューで送料無料】 エアージェイ 充電スタンド ホワイト SJS-2PWH 【RC on: Wilmington on DVDs: House of Wax (1953); After Earth; The Purge

Alessandra Olla アレサンドラ?オーラ カーブガラス 腕時計 レディース AO-990-2 クリスマス on: Wilmington on DVDs: House of Wax (1953); After Earth; The Purge

【ポイント最大26倍】ドクターシーラボ 2015年スペシャルバッグ<Dr.Ci:Labo/ on: Wilmington on DVDs: House of Wax (1953); After Earth; The Purge

12月誕生石 タンザナイト 幸運のクローバー ネックレス ホワイトゴールド on: Wilmington on DVDs: House of Wax (1953); After Earth; The Purge

best new dvd releases on: Wilmington on Movies and DVDs: Beauty and the Beast. Movie: Truesdale/Wise. DVD: Cocteau/Clement.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“There are critics who see their job as to be on the side of the artist, or in a state of imaginative sympathy or alliance with the artist. I think it’s important for a critic to be populist in the sense that we’re on the side of the public. I think one of the reasons is, frankly, capitalism. Whether you’re talking about restaurants or you’re talking about movies, you’re talking about large-scale commercial enterprises that are trying to sell themselves and market themselves and publicize themselves. A critic is, in a way, offering consumer advice. I think it’s very, very important in a time where everything is commercialized, commodified, and branded, where advertising is constantly bleeding into other forms of discourse, for there to be an independent voice kind of speaking to—and to some extent on behalf of—the public.”
~ A. O. Scott On One Role Of The Critic

“Every night, we’d sit and talk for a long, long time and talk about the process and I knew he was very, very intrigued about what could be happening. Then of course, one of the fascinating things he told me about was how he had readers who were reading for him that never knew it was Stanley Kubrick. So if he heard of a novel, he would send it out to people. I think he did it through newspaper ads at the time. And he would send it out to people and ask for a kind of synopsis or a critique of the novel. And he would read those. And it was done anonymously. But he said there were housewives and there were barristers and all sorts of people doing that. And I thought, yeah, that’s a really good way to open up the possibilities. Because otherwise, you’re randomly looking, walking through a bookstore or an airport. I said, “How many people are doing this?” It was about 30 people.”
~ George Miller’s Conversations With Kubrick