TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE. Starring Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Chelcie Ross, John Goodman and Justin Timberlake. Directed by Robert Lorenz. 111 minutes. Rated M (Coarse language and mature themes).
No, not a film about safe driving. Rather, a film about baseball and the question posed by Moneyball in 2011, whether talent scouting using computer data is more accurate than relying on the human eye and the instinct for observing the capacities and gifts of players. Moneyball favoured the computer. Trouble favours experience and the veteran human being. And, with Clint Eastwood playing the talent scout and allowing the screenplay to mock his lack of IT experience, there is no prize for guessing which method is in favour here.
Many of us had wished that Gran Torino would be the final screen performance for Eastwood, the redemption of the crusty curmudgeon, Dirty Harry seeing the light. But no, here he is again doing his curmudgeon with a vengeance – and, of course, being vindicated with his scouting ability against the bureaucrats and the presumptuous desk scouts.
Eastwood plays Gus (81 at the time of filming) whose contract is up for consideration, who persists in using the old ways, whose eyesight is failing and who can growl and growl with the best of them. His good friend (John Goodman) worries about him and asks Gus’s lawyer daughter (about to become a partner in her firm) to visit her father to see what she can do. She is played by the ever-versatile Amy Adams. Father and daughter are more or less estranged. He grieved after his wife’s death, tended to ignore his daughter and sent her away to be educated.
As might be guessed, this is a story about father-daughter understandings and reconciliation as well as about baseball. There is also a complication when a former player, Justin Timberlake, falls for the daughter.
Non-baseball fans will be able to live through the sports scenes because they are watching Gus as a character, relating (or not) to his daughter and defying the on-line experts. There is also a most obnoxious player who presumes he will be selected and will live the hedonistic life of a sports celebrity. We obviously enjoy his comeuppance at the pitch of the Latino son of the motel landlady when he has trouble with the curve ball.
As baseball films go, this is not in the ideal league of Field of Dreams. But, it is a chance to see Clint Eastwood in his 80s doing his thing once again, a screen icon if ever there was one.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out December 6, 2012.