Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Trouble with the Curve ***

Director: Robert Lorenz
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake
John Goodman, Matthew Lillard

Clint Eastwood is an American institution. Like all institutions, his importance seems to be inexplicable to some and unquestionable to others. Trouble with the Curve is the first movie in almost twenty years where he hasn't directed himself and his first starring role since what everyone thought would be his swan song, yet these facts will most likely be overlooked in light of the icon's recent "coming out" as a true political conservative. Therefore the film will most likely be examined, digested and analyzed as a representation of this "new" phase in Clint's career: the one where he came back to bite Hollywood in the ass. Impartial and objective as we may try to be, we are only human after all.

As humans, we might find ourselves rolling our eyes when veteran baseball scout Gus (played by Eastwood) grunts, mumbles and growls at every sign of modernity, delicateness or attempts by his daughter Mickey (Adams) to reach out to his "human" side. We might also find it preposterous to realize that Gus is nothing but a perpetuation of the Clint persona: a brutish cowboy from a long gone era who in the end has a real heart. Yet, despite the undeniable reactionary nature of this movie (essentially an antithesis to last year's Moneyball in how it defies the idea that computers are better at baseball than humans) there is something utterly charming and even pleasurable about how the movie shapes itself like old fashioned entertainment.

Unlike most recent movies that take place in the world of sports, this one realizes that not everyone will identify with balls and bats, so it allows its characters to take over and win the audience's love. Eastwood might be doing his usual shtick, but few actors are as selfless when they play a caricature like Clint is. Adams is of course enchanting as usual; watching her play off against Clint is a delight, particularly because he had the potential to eat her up onscreen. Rounding up the cast is Goodman in a best friend/jolly man role, Lillard as a douchy scout trying to steal Clint's throne and Timberlake as Adams' love interest.

The movie seems devoted to making us realize that nothing is as good as old fashioned American values, yet even within its delusion (there's a subplot about immigration that is both uplifting and offensive) it remains completely true to itself, to the point where we can't help but enjoy ourselves and embrace it despite our best knowledge. Almost everyone with half a brain will leave the theater thinking Eastwood is so reactionary he's scary, but the same people will probably want to have a beer with him and listen to his stories...and that's the trouble with institutions.

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